Does SeaWorld Have Too Much Influence in Government Decisions?

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What right does SeaWorld have to keep the young female pilot whale that beached with more than a dozen others in the Florida Keys on May 5th? Most of the whales died or were euthanized, two males were tagged and released, and there are just two others still alive in guarded condition. SeaWorld vets have participated in deciding which whales would be released (males, coincidentally, which are not needed for their breeding program and represent husbandry challenges), euthanized, or treated (females).

Courtesy Florida Keys News Bureau

Pilot whales can’t be released as solitary individuals because they live in social groups, so unless her original family can be found that youngest whale has only a life in captivity to look forward to. Finding her family is a needle in the haystack operation, and will be expensive to attempt. The National Marine Fisheries Service makes it fairly easy for qualified amusement parks to “adopt” these whales, which are protected from capture by the Marine Mammal Protection Act – it is the easiest, cheapest solution.
Why should SeaWorld be allowed to ask for and be granted this little whale? There are many aquariums worldwide that would like to have her too – not that it would be a better solution for the whale – so shouldn’t other groups have the right to bid on her? Should SeaWorld have to pay for her? Shouldn’t every effort be made to find her family first? It may be true that most of the whales died, but why didn’t the authorities wait to release the two males and then release all the survivors together?
What is SeaWorld doing at the moment to help? As far as I know, it is unpaid volunteers who are there, round the clock, administering care to the whales…and reports are filtering out that the authorities have had major problems. So if SeaWorld is offering ‘expertise’, it is not evident.
Here are some insights from concerned individuals, which will be kept anonymous until the people involved are notified:

“…the reason I backed off as soon as they decided to move them to Key Largo…They were talking about keeping the young one if it survived since the day they stranded.”
“… NONE of these vets or the owner of MMC have worked with pilot whales before. As you’ll see below, injuries have happened to these whales caused by the staff’s decisions (like using $1.99 flotation tubes from Publix to help them float). It also took the whale they euthanized five minutes to die, I’m not an expert, but that seems like an extremely long time.”
“… A staff member was bitten yesterday by an unidentified whale (couldn’t get number). He had stitches on his right hand and about seven ¼-inch to ½-inch puncture wounds around the outer and top part of his hand. He also had a puncture wound on his middle finger right next to his fingernail. They also discontinued the use of the round foam floatation sticks which were put underneath and between their pectoral fins to aid flotation. These caused injury to the whales; the skin and tissue on the inside corner of their pectoral fins were removed in a 3 inch round area.”
“…#303: “303”–Medium (most critical)
–Urinated blood. (Friday night & Saturday morning)
–Eating fish–6 lbs of herring.
–Ultrasound performed to assess how quickly food is passing through intestines. Indicated there is a problem with passing digestive material quick enough. This is a concern.
–Water pumped into stomach, she regurgitated.
–IV with 3 Liters of Sodium Chloride administered via lower side of fluke. (Done on Friday night & Saturday morning)
–IV procedure failed first time. Veterinarian admitted they waited too long to begin flow of sodium chloride through the IV. Blood clot formed and had to try again. Second attempt to administer succeeded.
#301: “301“–Baby
–Digestive issues.
— being tube fed “fish milkshake”–3.5 lbs of fish 3x daily.
#302: “302”–Medium (w/sunburn)** #302 or #303 Euthanized today
–Still being tube fed “fish milkshake”–3.5 lbs of fish 3x daily.
–Curvature of fluke due to build up of amino acids–drugs not working to cure issue.
–Veterinarians doing “experimental treatments” with drugs on the amino acid build up issue.
–Fluke falling to right side @ 90degree angle, and body is creating an “S curve”.
#300: “300”–Largest (healthiest)
Ate 30 lbs of fish”
“This whole rescue was rotten from the start I am a Marine Mammal Medic in New Zealand and I have watched this whole “rescue” in absolute horror! It has been grossly OVERMANAGED and the whole time I knew why. It was worth all this to get their hands on ONE Whale. If it is of their opinion that this little one cant be released there needs to be an independent inquiry. AND if it is found to be true this baby CANNOT go to seaworld! She needs to be placed in semi wild conditions to be monitored and looked after. I hope American activists are ready for a fight. Im in NZ and i sure as hell am!>

What can be done? Demand accountability. You have a right to follow the tracking of the released whales and to know the results of the necropsies. You have the right to ask the Fisheries Service for records, and to request that you get the whale;  ask for, fill out, and return the forms. Get an injunction to keep SeaWorld from getting the young pilot whale until all other options have been explored.
SeaWorld may get to keep this whale, and are arguably the most qualified to do so. But they should not be allowed to participate in the decision making process, and it is up to concerned citizens to curtail SeaWorld’s influence in the future.
Update  5/26/11
Thanks for the insight from an anonymous source:  no permit is required for a “non-releasable”  marine mammal.  That should make it easier for you to ask to have the whale for yourself.  Of course it makes it easier for SeaWorld too…

How to apply for a permit to display a marine mammal :
“A stranded marine mammal that has been classified as non-releasable may be held for the purposes of public display without a permit and in accordance to the three public display criteria (50 CFR 216.27).
A permit is required to hold a releasable beached/stranded marine mammal in captivity for any purpose, including public display.”
(Acknowledgments will follow if appropriate, but the first goes to Sandy M. who asked for more information.)

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