SeaWorld Tanks – Why Bigger Will Never Be Big Enough

k33 versus seaworld
The tiny blue box in the upper middle of this picture shows the amount of space in one of the pools at SeaWorld. The bright yellow line shows the path of  a dive by a wild Southern Resident orca, K33.

No matter how big SeaWorld builds their tanks they will always be hopelessly tiny compared to the environment where orcas live. Yet room to swim and dive are only part of why the orcas’ natural environment can never be duplicated in captivity – those crystal clear tanks of chlorinated water where the whales swim in circles or bob endlessly at the surface are not even remotely representative of the ocean.
Whales are uniquely adapted to live in a complex, dynamic, sensory rich environment – below you can see how the saltiness of the Salish Sea (where the Southern Resident orcas live) varies over the course of a single day, and observe what happens as the salty ocean water meets the fresh water from rivers.  (Graphic from UW Coastal Modeling Group).

Sound  –  which is essential to whales for locating food,  staying together, and avoiding predators – travels through these salty/fresh water masses at different speeds.  And as whales descend through these masses of water their bodies also must adjust to changes of pressure. Their lungs collapse and their heart rates slow to 10 beats per minute or less…yet they still communicate and search for food.

img05-07 sound velocity and density Sound velocity (m/s) vs. depth (m) and latitude (S) derived from temperature, salinity and depth measurements, for the first 500 m of the water column in the Drake Passage.(

What this means to the orcas as they travel and forage as much as 100 miles in distance (and up to 823 feet in depth) is that they experience constant changes in how fresh, salty, warm, cold, light, and deep the water is.  The currents and tides are in constant flux, and can completely change direction with depth. They share this rich environment their entire lives with their families and pod members, and an ever-changing variety of marine life.

How far the orca K33 traveled in a little over a day. A SeaWorld tank would be about the size of one little dot.

How far the orca K33 traveled in a little over six hours. A SeaWorld tank would be about the size of one little dot. (Cascadia Research)

By putting these animals in tanks we are missing the point of their existence. Whales are fully adapted to a different world than ours, and no tank can ever replicate their world or truly educate us about these peaceful, intelligent beings that share the Earth with us.

Seaworld’s Last, Best Chance to Turn the Company Around Takes the Helm

On April 7th, 2015 Seaworld’s new CEO, Joel Manby, will come aboard and try to save the sinking company. If he follows his own principles, and extends those principles to the animals in his care we may see an entirely new company rise out of the old corporation’s ashes.
I think he deserves a chance to show the direction of his leadership, but if Manby’s approach continues down the same path as Seaworld has careened for the last five decades, the company will go aground.
Will we see the end of the deceit, cover-up, racism, nasty tactics, endangerment of trainers, bullying, and mudslinging that Seaworld has engaged in?  Will their stance against animal rights activists (whose guiding principle has always been love of animals) change?  I hope so, and will hold off on judgement…unless they do something untenable to bail themselves out (such as send animals to China)…

His book:

Love Works, by Joel Manby
Love Works, by Joel Manby

Have self-control in difficult situations.

Leading with love is not an excuse to be “soft” on people. As leaders, we must hold people accountable. Yet at the same time, we must always admonish with patience and respect. Our objective isn’t simply performance; it’s to protect the dignity of the people on our team.

Whether we correct and train our employees in public or in private, our goal is always to do so with respect and love. After all, that’s exactly how we want to be treated.

Show encouragement and enthusiasm.

Kindness is intentionally creating and maintaining the right environment in your organization so employees can deliver an enthusiastic guest experience. The goal is to make deposits in people’s emotional bank account, operating on a 3 praises to every 1 admonishment ratio. With this model, management is kind to employees, employees are kind to customers, and customers are loyal and enthusiastic. Everybody wins.

Place confidence in those around you.

Leaders must trust their employees to perform their best. You can show trust in your team by listening well and not interrupting with your own ideas. Letting employees make and be involved in decisions they are responsible for is another sign of trust from leadership. Trusting the people we work with is crucial to building a climate of positive morale and results.

Think of yourself less.

Being unselfish isn’t just for individuals—it’s for organizations too. The gift of leadership brings with it the awesome responsibility of giving properly of our time and resources, part of which includes delegating. A leader who delegates not only becomes more efficient, but also displays a great level of selflessness. They are demonstrating a willingness to allow others to make decisions.
Leadership also entails being a steward of giving for the organization. At HFE, we have established the Share It Forward foundation to help our employees in need. It all starts with the selfless donation of employees and is matched by the selfless donation of the company. This foundation has now helped thousands of employees.

Define reality corporately and individually.

Leading with love means caring enough about an individual or a team to give and solicit truthful feedback. Sometimes this feels foreign and out of our comfort zone, but it is healthy and sets in motion the opportunity for great things to happen. When leaders provide their teams with the truth about their performance as well as the tools to be successful, regardless of personal feelings, this is a sure sign of leading with love.

Release the grip of the grudge.

Forgiveness is sometimes agonizing, and it doesn’t always lead to a happy ending. I am not suggesting that we toss out our organizational standards and goals—but simply keeping our hearts soft enough to be open to forgiveness. It may not always be the easiest thing to do, but it is always the right thing.

Stick to your values in all circumstances.

If you choose to lead with love, others around you may not “get” what you’re doing. Do it anyway. This type of leadership is more important than the temporary approval of your coworkers. Choosing to lead with love is the single most difficult decision a leader can make, but a wise leader dedicates him or herself to it because it is also the single best way to lead an organization.


Leaders who are dedicated to the attributes of love outlined in Love Works, do not only get strong financial results—that would defeat the purpose of these principles. Leading with love not only results in positive business outcomes, but also will certainly place that leader in a unique yet very successful minority in business, government and the nonprofit world. I encourage you to lead with love today, tomorrow and forever.


What will the new CEO do to end this treatment of orcas?
What will the new CEO do to end this treatment of orcas?