The subject of keeping orcas in captivity is a big one, fraught with emotion and embedded in huge financial investment. We plan to tackle this thorny issue in detail once the summer season of research has been completed, but given the fact that The Seattle Aquarium is hosting what promises to be a rare opportunity to learn about the situation, now seems a good time to introduce it.
So far we have only begun to share with you how orcas live their lives - we talked about their family bonds, the challenges they face, and what it might mean to us to lose them. We have yet to talk about how they communicate, how intelligent they may be, or what their ocean environment is like.
In review, then:They have strong, lifelong family bonds.
They almost never stop moving, and apparently the calves must stay in motion, in a term called 'obligate swimming'.
They seem to be curious about us, and never intentionally cause harm.
Photo by Ken Balcomb
In light of that, plus the fact that although the Orcas have a global range they are not abundant anywhere, we need to think long and hard about why we need to see them like this:
When this is what it takes to capture them:
Orcas are bred in captivity, so capture is not always necessary, but their lives are far from ideal. Continued captivity is rationalized by those who love the whales as well as those who just profit from them - but when you distill the arguments what remains is a question of compassion, and how we treat the creatures that share our planet.