Tag Archives: SeaWorld

Friday Linkage 11/14/2014

You want to talk about winter? It arrived with a bang this week. Near sixty degrees and pleasant on Monday and it plunged into the teens with a nice brisk wind by Wednesday. Now it’s Friday and people are consigned to have the parkas out until spring. At least Ullr was nice and dropped fresh powder in Breckenridge.

On to the links…

SeaWorld Earnings PLUMMET As Outrage Over Orca Treatment Grows—SeaWorld is hurting. The documentary Blackfish is killing them in the public sphere and people are voting with their feet by not coming to the park in numbers. So much so that the company had to admit as much in its earnings release. Keep up the pressure folks. It’s working.

Voters In 19 States Just Committed More Than $13 Billion For Conservation—The mid-term election was a disaster from some perspectives, but ballot initiatives in 19 states set aside some serious money for land conservation.

Climate Tools Seek to Bend Nature’s Path—Be wary of geo-engineering and the promise of being able to continue in a business as usual mode with regard to our changing the climate. Sounds like snake oil to me.

Fossil Fuels Reap $550 Billion in Subsidies, Hindering Renewables Investment—Do you want to know why there are not solar panels on everyone’s house in the world? Because fossil fuels suck up billions of dollars in subsidies every year. Remember, these are the most profitable companies in the history of humankind.

How the World Uses Coal – Interactive—Coal is not dead, but it is down. Maybe with a few more knockdowns we can call it a TKO.

France Breaks Ground on Europe’s Largest Solar Plant—Some people get excited to see fields of sunflowers or bluebells. I get excited to see rows and rows of solar panels. 300MW of solar PV is a lot of rows.

Wind Power Generated 126% of Scotland’s Household Energy Needs Last Month—Granted, it was windy and demand was not particularly high but over 100% of power anywhere from renewables is a good thing.

UK Approves 750-Megawatt Offshore Wind Project—This is some serious offshore wind. Just imagine if the U.S. developed some of the offshore wind capacity in the eastern part of the country?

Here Comes the Sun: America’s Solar Boom, in Charts—Just check out how big the solar revolution is going to be in the near future.

40% Renewable Energy Integration No Trouble For Midwest—Iowa is probably going to be the test bed for this theory as the percentage of our power generated from wind is quickly approaching the 40% mark with proposed projects coming on-line.

New Bounty of Oysters in Maryland, but There Is a Snag—As we look to intensively use more and more spaces, particularly arable land and coastlines, there are bound to be conflicts that arise. Can’t we all just get along?

U.S.D.A. Approves Modified Potato. Next Up: French Fry Fans.—Do we really need a GMO potato so that people can eat more fast food French fries? Just asking.

The Biggest Lies About Science in the U.S. Government’s “Wastebook”—Conservatives love to publish little missives about waste and corruption by stretching the truth and acting like clowns. Here are some classics from a recent example. Remember, these are the people who preface every statement about science with “I’m not a scientist…”

Cash for Grass Changing the Landscape in California Drought—Why anyone would have a green lawn west of say Omaha is beyond me. Heck, I live in a place where do not need to water our lawn and I want to get rid of even more grass.

Saving the Last Wild Bison—Bison are amazing animals. A truly American animal that we should celebrate much more so than the stupid cow.

Gunnison Sage Grouse gets Federal Protection to Prevent Extinction—A lot of policy watchers anticipate this issue to be as contentious as the spotted owl decision in the 20th century. Instead of logging, a declining industry at the time of the spotted owl controversy, this impacts oil and gas. Get ready.

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Sea World is Getting Hammered

On November 13th I captured this chart:

SeaWorldThis is the price and volume of the stock SEAS on the New York Stock Exchange. SEAS is the ticker symbol for SeaWorld. Needless to say, it is not a comfortable place to be if you are in investor relations right now. On that same day the current low is less than half of what the 52-week high had been. ($16.77 per share on November 13th versus a high of $35.30 on February 26th). Brutal.

The great thing about a company being publicly traded is that SEC requires a lot of information to be filed—granted it is in a sometimes archaic format—and institutional investors as for a lot of additional information if you want them to open their huge purses. All of this information floats around the tubes of the internet waiting to get sucked up and analyzed by eager parties. Like me.

I have little or no love for SeaWorld. The documentary Blackfish and books like David Kirby’s Death at SeaWorld: Shamu and the Dark Side of Killer Whales in Captivity just confirm long held suspicions that ocean animals belong in the ocean. These animals are not performers.

So, it is refreshing to see that there are direct impacts to people being upset about the practices at SeaWorld. How upset? If you look at the quarterly numbers released recently people are pissed and voting with their feet. Attendance at the parks—which include the infamous SeaWorld parks, Busch Gardens theme parks, and some other random parks—was down 5.2% compared to the same quarter in 2013, which is bad, but revenue was down an astounding 8% during the same period comparison.

These are horrific numbers. The executives of SeaWorld and the analysts gave them a pass on the real reason and stuck to the usual lines of weather, competition, blah…blah…blah…

The fact is that people do not want to patronize a business that is a deadly place to work and that holds animals captive in such deplorable conditions. We dislike zoos that are squalid, puppy mills that are exploitative, and marine parks that are pathetic.

If you are someone who is passionate about this issue please keep up the pressure because the impacts are being seen. People are staying away and, as a publicly traded company, we can see deep into the belly of the beast when it comes to results.

Friday Linkage 3/7/2014

Vacation is so close that I can almost taste it.  Which means that I am totally unproductive at work and I am trying to get creative with dinners so that there are no groceries left in the refrigerator over the course of the week we will not be home.

On to the links…

U.S. Lets 141 Trillion Calories Of Food Go To Waste Each Year—People might quibble with the math of 141 trillion calories, but regardless the number is going to be huge and it is a damn shame.  Wasted food in a country where millions of people go hungry is a moral crime.  Wasted food is also an ecological crime because of the resources used to produce food.

E.P.A. Set to Reveal Tough New Sulfur Emissions Rule—One of those boring, but very important stories.  Congress may not be able to act on any environmental protection legislation, but the President and his appointees do have agencies through which to act.  These rules will make the air cleaner, period.

How Europe Could Get 16 Percent Of Its Road Fuel From Garbage By 2030—Just imagine filling up with liquid fuel from garbage?  Or, you could just not make the waste in the first place.  Baby steps.

First Electric School Bus Hits The Road In California—Who does not remember the plume of black smoke coming from a school bus’ exhaust as a kid?  You never wanted to be behind one of those yellow smog machines back in the day.  Now there might not even be an exhaust pipe.  Sweet.

Solar Power Just Had Its Biggest Quarter Ever—Solar had a huge 2013, but I think when you look at the numbers you realize that wind got punched in the gut.

Hawaii Taps On-Bill Repayment Program for Clean Energy Financing and Job Creation—On-Bill Repayment (OBR) is a big deal because it is a financing vehicle for renewable energy at the consumer level.  Do not take this lightly.

Former Dolphin Trainer Speaks Out on the Horrors of Captivity—Is there any reason why, besides money, that we should keep healthy marine mammals in captivity?  All the evidence points to a system that is broken and harmful to the animals.

SeaWorld Has a New PR Nightmare: This Girl Who Was Bitten by a Dolphin—As if SeaWorld needed another blitz of bad PR, a girl was bitten or “mouthed” to use the politically correct animal captivity lingo.  Free these animals now.

Sea Turtles Are Endangered, But 42,000 Were Killed Legally Last Year—Just counting the legally captured sea turtles, it adds up to 42,000.  It’s probably a lot higher number when you count the illegally caught and by-catch deaths.  Ugh.

Idaho ‘Ag Gag’ Bill Signed Into Law By Gov. Otter—I cannot tell what the impact of these ag gag laws is going to be across the country.  I wonder if animal welfare activists will be motivated to push the envelope in hopes of using a court case to expose not just the cruelty but the machinations of industry to muzzle critics as well.

Deforestation of Kalimantan Rainforest – In Pictures—Remember, these forests were felled for palm oil plantations.  That’s it.

First Legally Sanctioned Grows of Hemp in Colorado—Legal grows of hemp will not get the attention that a line of people waiting for a bag of Bubba Kush, but it is a significant thing because it is another option for farmers to make money.  It is also a very versatile crop.

Soil as Carbon Storehouse: New Weapon in Climate Fight?—Soil has an amazing capacity to sequester carbon.  Degraded and marginal soils the world over are an amazing opportunity to improve the condition of the soil and help the climate.

Wendell Berry: A Strong Voice For Local Farming and the Land—Wendell Berry is a legend.  Anytime you get a chance to read or hear his thoughts on farming and sustainability you need to take the opportunity to listen.

EPA Moves To Block Massive Alaskan Gold And Copper Mine–The Pebble Mine in Alaska may not be dead quite yet, but with major investors pulling out and government regulators leery of the environmental cost the odds do not look good.  Then again, mines don’t make a lot of sense in a lot of places.

Sea Otters In Prince William Sound Back to Pre-Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Numbers—Finally, almost twenty five years after the Exxon Valdez oil disaster, sea otters are returning to their pre-spill levels in Prince William Sound.  So, naturally, the petro lobby will probably start the howls of drill baby drill at CPAC.

The GOP’s Unregulated Business-Climate Nirvana, in China—A friend of mine always used to say that a free market ideologue’s dream was a slum in Africa because there were no rules.  Maybe China is a better example because it is big business and its attendant government cronies run amok with no consideration for the wellbeing of the people or the environment.

You Must Read—Death at SeaWorld: Shamu and the Dark Side of Killer Whales in Captivity

I am ashamed.

9781250031259I have seen Blackfish and it made me ashamed that I had visited SeaWorld with my children.  If you felt the same way after seeing that documentary you must read David Kirby’s Death at SeaWorld: Shamu and the Dark Side of Killer Whales in Captivity.

Tilikum, the orca at the center of Blackfish, and the death of Dawn Brancheau, along with the deaths of Keltie Byrne and Daniel P. Dukes, plays a central role in the narrative of Death at SeaWorld but the story is a much broader indictment of the entire entertainment industrial complex that has been created around captive killer whales.

The death of three people traced back to a single killer whale in captivity and dozens of serious injuries attributed to other killer whales in captivity is just one part of this sad story.  The most compelling part of Death at SeaWorld is the way in which the deaths of the killer whales themselves are laid bare for the reader.  It’s a veritable slaughterhouse of cetaceans.

It’s the entire reason for the Shamu ruse.  What’s the Shamu ruse?  The original Shamu is dead.  The original Shamu has been dead for over 40 years.  But, by using the stage name for a number of killer whales SeaWorld is able to keep up the appearance of a single performer.  Since 1971, 36 killer whales have died while in SeaWorld’s hands including the original Shamu.  Only one, Orky 2, reached the age of 30.

If you want to check out the carnage for yourself just spend some time U.S. Marine Mammal Inventory database.  I use the searchable database created by the Sun-Sentinel which has data from 2010.

Another great source of information about the deaths of killer whales in captivity is the list put together by the Orca Project.  As of December 5, 2013 the figure was 159 deaths in captivity.  Horribly, this number does not include the number of unsuccessful births which would add another 30 deaths to the list.

Not only are these intelligent and social animals ripped from their family groups, forced to integrate with other orcas from vastly different social hierarchies, and live in environments completely devoid of the stimulation required to satiate their curiosity, but it is likely that the animal will die much younger than their wild counterparts.  Regardless of the marketing spin and public relations hackery that SeaWorld’s mercenaries pitch the fact remains that killer whales in captivity lead lives that are less healthy and shorter than wild killer whales.

Orcas at SeaWorld are bred in a way that reminds one of the worst practices of puppy mills, which are universally condemned for poor conditions.  Animals are inbred—sometimes even having a young male impregnate his mother—and are bred in such a way that creates hybrids of differing orca populations that would not have occurred in the wild.

A common argument is that SeaWorld does valuable research on killer whales, but an objective review of the literature shows that almost all of the research is related to husbandry—which benefits SeaWorld’s own captive breeding program and does nothing to advance our knowledge of wild populations—and very little money is spent on research.  If you read the quarterly filings with the SEC—SeaWorld is a publicly traded company so their financials are public record—the company describes itself as a “leading theme park and entertainment company…”  Not once in the Business Overview does the company talk about research.  Sure, a few animals will get rescued and some may even get returned to the wild—always with a lot of press coverage—but SeaWorld, at its core, is an entertainment company exploiting animals.

What value do we place on seeing the majesty of these animals?  It is a common argument that SeaWorld provides an opportunity for people to see marine animals that may be impossible otherwise.  I will ignore the fact that a single day admission for an adult to one of the parks costs ~$80 and a child not much less, so a family of four is looking at spending more than $300 just to get inside the park for the day.  The fact remains that what we see in these parks is not the majesty of a killer whale, but a depressing distillation of artifice that cheapens nature.