Earlier this summer, dolphin advocate Russ Rector managed to use FOIA to secure the release from the National Marine Fisheries Service of all documents in their files related to the purchase and import of Tilikum, Haida (and her calf), and Nootka from Sealand of the Pacific to SeaWorld.
Today, with Russ’ permission, I have uploaded the rest to Scribd, so the full set is available for anyone to read and analyze (interesting tidbit: the cost to SeaWorld for all the permit work was $200).
I am sure there is plenty of additional info in the documents that is worth noting, so please feel free to comment and share your thoughts on anything that catches your attention. Of note, there are full necropsies and related analysis of the deaths of two SeaWorld killer whales, Kahana and Kenau, as well as SeaWorld’s full Marine Mammal Inventory Report from 1991. (I have had the necropsies analyzed by Dr. Jon Zern, a veterinarian, and will post his analysis in a separate post tomorrow morning).
Since these documents are all finally available thanks to Russ and his persistence, I have asked him for his thoughts on their significance. Here’s what he has to say:
The documents I obtained from National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) after many years of requests and searching are going to be made public here for the first time. These documents are a wealth of information concerning marine mammals in captivity. The one thing that stands out to me is how Sealand, Sea World and the Canadian government all seemed to work together to mislead the National Marine Fisheries Service concerning a medical emergency at Sealand and the orca Tillicum, that did not exist. Yes, the animals were in a very bad situation created by a bunch of dumb people more interested in money than how the animals were treated and cared for. But there was no true medical emergency.
Before Tillicum killed the female trainer (Keltie Byrne) at Sealand there was no medical emergency, and suddenly after he killed her there was this medical emergency that everybody in the captive industry suddenly became aware of. My question is: why did this medical emergency only surface after he killed her, not before?
That in itself is very suspicious and proves to me that this was all about getting Tillicum–a sorely needed breeder–to Sea World no matter what they had to do or say. Veterinarians of captive facilities and those beholden to the dolphin captivity industry wrote letters saying if he wasn’t moved to Sea World immediately he was going to die. This was a set up. SeaWorld, Sealand and the Canadian government said exactly what they needed to say to mislead NMFS into issuing the permit for the emergency transport. This shows me the permitting process at NMFS is broken and archaic and does not truly protect marine mammals as the Marine Mammal Protection Act mandates. This shows me the Marine Mammal Protection Act at this point in time is the Marine Mammal Facility Protection Act. In the coming days I will be asking NMFS and The Marine Mammal Commission to ask Congress for a full program review of the permitting process for the import and export of marine mammals to and from the United States.
These documents were kept secret for too long. That’s a problem. When we get so far downstream from any incident it becomes old news and seems to be ignored. That seems to be why the captivity industry lobbies government agencies and other captive facilities to make sure this sort of information doesn’t come to light at the appropriate time. These documents have spent 22 years waiting to be discovered by the public. It’s a lot of reading so go through them and see what you can find. Please contact me if you need any assistance please contact me at captivitykills@Comcast.net.