OPINION: 5 Reasons To Go See Blackfish

Written by on August 16, 2013 in Editor's Choice, Other News

Blackfish, the documentary about SeaWorld, Tilikum and other orcas in captivity, was recently released in the US. It is an incredibly powerful film and a must-see before visiting a park with captive marine mammals.

Tilikum in a scene from BLACKFISH, a Magnolia Pictures release. Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures.

Tilikum in a scene from BLACKFISH, a Magnolia Pictures release. Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures.


Here are five reason to go see it:

1. It’s not trying to guilt you.
Unlike many environmental and animal rights documentaries, this film isn’t trying to make you feel bad. The trainers at SeaWorld didn’t even know how much they weren’t being told so how could you know? Nope. Blackfish isn’t about guilt, it’s about opening your eyes and showing you what’s really happening so you can make the decision for yourself.

2. It’s not graphic.
When I first saw the trailer for Blackfish, I assumed it would be similar to The Cove. (For those of you who haven’t seen it, it’s about the annual dolphin slaughter in Taiji, Japan. Read this post to learn more.) The Cove, as more of a docudrama, spends plenty of time focusing on water turned red with blood, the cries of wounded dolphins and other generally disturbing footage. Same goes for PETA’s Meet Your Meat–I nearly lost my lunch while watching that film. While that method can be incredibly powerful, that’s not the method used in Blackfish. The filmmakers actually gloss over some of the truly gruesome stuff.

3. For all of MST’s readers in the US – It’s happening right here in our backyard.
This is different than many films like The Cove which takes place in Japan or The End of the Line which happens in the middle of the oceans, seemingly far, far away. This isn’t something you can blame on another country, government or tradition. It’s happening right here.

4. It will change your mind about visiting parks with marine mammals in captivity.
After watching Blackfish, the idea of spending your vacation at a place like SeaWorld is absurd. You get to know these whales and their ex-trainers and you can begin to understand how they feel. You can see what the whales are like in the wild and you realize that there actually isn’t anything educational about seeing an 8,000 pound orca in a teeny tiny tank.

5. You can do something about it.
This is probably the most important reason to me because you don’t have to leave the theater depressed and angry, thinking there’s nothing you can do about it because there is. You can stop buying tickets to these places. Without your money, they won’t last long. And even better, you can take the money you would have spent on a trip to SeaWorld and spend it on a whale watching trip on a boat in the wild where you can see these creatures the way they were meant to be seen.

So. My advice: wait for the next rainy day this summer, bring a big group and go see it. But at the very least, go see it before you spend money at SeaWorld (or any similar place) in the future.

Here’s the trailer:

If the documentary not in a theater near you but you’re still interested in learning more about it, watch this great, short interview with former SeaWorld trainer John Hargrove who is featured in Blackfish.

Have you seen Blackfish? Let us know in the comments section below — I would love to know what you thought about it!

Copyright © 2013 by Marine Science Today, a publication of Marine Science Today LLC.

About the Author

About the Author: Emily Tripp is the Publisher and Editor of MarineScienceToday.com. She holds marine science and biology degrees from the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science and a Master of Advanced Studies degree in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation from Scripps Institution of Oceanography. When she's not writing about marine science, she's probably running around outside or playing with her dog. .


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  1. Blackfish | The Star Scale Treatment | December 29, 2013
  1. Rebecca says:

    I’m going for my second time today. The more people I take the better I feel. I am very worried about Lolita at Miami seaquarium.

  2. Emily says:

    Wow that’s great — bring everyone you know!

  3. These are 5 excellent reasons to see Blackfish this weekend! Bravo!

  4. Mik says:

    Well then what do we do when the orcas are free?

  5. Emily says:

    We get to see them in the wild!

  6. Joshua Peters says:

    Pretty great representation of this movie. I have two jobs that have me working an average of 96 hours a week. One is as a whale watching captain and naturalist 7 days a week and the other is working as a counselor at a teenage crisis shelter. I took a group of clients the other day to see it and they were blown away. Shortly before this I took then on a whale watch to see orcas in the wild. Made them really appreciate them and they were full of questions. Keep educating!!!

  7. lynzi says:

    Mik- People who study pods of orcas and have for years have outlined a plan in which they are first placed in sea cordoned off pens in which they are fed by volunteers or the very SW employees who used to put their lives in danger. After they have acclimated to life back in the sea, they can be released. Have you seen this informative documentary?

    Did you see the bloodline of the captive orcas? Tilikum is the sire.

    We cannot expect it to be safe to place good athletic animal loving naive ‘trainers’ in jeopardy.

    Dawn was the best of the best. What happened to her is not an anomaly.

    Anyone who merely sees this film and then does the simplest research on orcas ( try wikipedia) can see that it is beyond obscene to keep these majestic cetaceans in a concrete swimming pool.

  8. Emily says:

    Joshua – It’s so great to hear that you’re giving people the opportunity to see these amazing animals in their natural environment. That’s how it should be!

  9. Vickie D says:

    I’ve seen it twice!! and each time I see something I missed before. Although I’ve known for about 13 years that SW and other marine parks are a bunch of malarky, I’m glad to see films like this going mainstream and educating the public to the truth and what the marine parks are really about. it’s not educational, their employees aren’t giving correct info and they won’t LET the employees tell the truth because it would make them look bad. While the captures in our state, Washington, were in the past, our Southern Resident pods are struggling from a huge gap of a couple of generations wiped out during those captures. We admit it wasn’t only those captures, but, that generation missing turned into another future missing generation and our pods are struggling. Also, it’s not just the whales and dolphins, they do this to the pinnepeds as well: Seals and sea lions are also subject to this abuse. Above all, it’s just a circus show for what?? This is not natural..it is awful how they are treated and fed.Don’t feed the greed….don’t buy a ticket!!!

  10. Vickie D says:

    Mik: what do you do when they are free?? Get rid of the selfishness of watching them in a tank and let your heart flow if they don’t have to perform anymore. They won’t release captive borns…it is called for a seapen for them…more room…no more performing. I would like to see the moms with their true babies again because SW seperates natural pod families for their show purposes. Tilly isn’t a good release possibility. However, Corky and Lolita and Morgan are. Esp the first two as we know who their families are and they still swim in the wild, Lolita’s mom still lives. Take a trip to see them in the wild…don’t go to a park where the info is distorted for the park’s benefit that makes them look like they doing good to show people these animals that normally they wouldn’t otherwise. It’s wrong.

  11. Heather Gould says:

    I just saw Blackfish today and I can’t believe that I didn’t know any of the stuff that was happening at sea world. I remember the last time I went to a park the killer whale came on a slide out in front of me and was bleeding. The trainers got him to the slide of the pool let everyone finish watching the show then put him in a small pool and did nothing for him bleeding. I vowed i would never go back after that, Im glad people will see the truth with this movie and all my friends will see it ! Im going to work on shut -ing down one park near me or at least work on getting the animals out.

  12. Mike Bonheim says:

    Do you or anyone associated with MST have a connection to the movie?

    I just watched it last night, and I was horrified. Physically ill. Then today I read all the SeaWorld responses, and the trainers who say they were misquoted, and everything else. But I don;t really care what anyone who calls themselves a “trainer” thinks, and SeaWorld obviously has an agenda.

    But, I think that the filmmakers had an agenda, too. Why wouldn’t they include the full commentary from the people they interviewed?

    And, I don;t care if Tilikum was violent, or if the trainer did something wrong. Those are all secondary concerns to me, but it became a primary message of the film. That having these whales is dangerous. What about inhumane? Unethical? Evil?

    I honestly just want a clear, honest, unbiased opinion from someone who truly knows these beautiful animals as to whether the benefit they serve in study, conservation, and education is real, (Much like I feel it is at WCS zoos such as the Bronx Zoo) or if it is all just a sham to make some dough.

  13. Emily says:

    Hi Mike — Nobody at MST has any connection with Blackfish. If you’re looking for more information on the education/conservation side of captivity, I suggest reading Amy Costanzo’s open letter back to SeaWorld. In her response to Claim #5, she discusses the truth behind SeaWorld’s claims: http://theorcaproject.wordpress.com/2013/12/20/open-letter-seaworld/. All of her points are backed up by either by financial data from SeaWorld, peer-reviewed research, or other sources. I’ll find some of those links and post them here.