Sea World Shamu(s) Gone Wild: 2007 Cal/OSHA Investigation Quashed?
In doing further research due to mainstream media reports regarding last week's death of an experienced trainer at Sea World Orlando, I came across an investigative report published by the local news media in San Diego from 2007 with respect to an incident which occurred at the San Diego Sea World Park and then was subsequently investigated by Cal/OSHA.
Strangely enough, during the investigation of the 2007 incident, another incident came to light from 1987 involving a whale I am more than familiar with, Orky, that was aggressively pursuing a female trainer at a show me and my family attended back in 1983-84 before Marineland of the Pacific was purchased by SeaWorld and then closed, and Orky then subsequently transferred to Sea World San Diego.
During the 1987 incident, Orky apparently did get a male trainer against the ropes, as it were, which resulted in some broken bones and lacerations to the trainer's internal organs after being thrashed around.
Apparently, even after this 2007 incident, there was little change instituted with respect to true protection of those trainers such as mandating provision of life saving equipment (such as guns or harpoons) be available during training sessions or shows in order to protect the human population from such reoccurrences back then, other than those "noise buckets" most that have attended those shows have either seen, or if as in my family's experience, saw them actually used in order to distract or redirect the whale's attention.
But does appear they can be singleminded in their quests for either attention, or communicating their displeasure, if so inclined.
In fact, it appears from this article, that the OSHA review was quite cursory, and conducted by the state, rather than federal, OSHA authorities although this park is now not simply a national commercial conglomerate and venture, owned now by a global investment company out of New York to boot, but also a global park and industry.
The argument, of course, the park used was that they were "visited" by the U.S. Department of Agriculture two or three times a year, and had had no previous violations during this investigation.
And that Cal/OSHA "wasn't qualifed" to conducted the investigations, it appears, so the files in that matter were successfully supressed by the legal team for Sea World, who indicated that the USDA had oversight.
My reaction to that, though, is that it is my understanding that the USDA's primary concerns in visiting the park would be the food safety as a public venue, and just what type of inspection would they conduct with respect to these whales and their interactions with the trainers, other than check them for any viruses or communicable diseases that might contaminate any food sources consumed by the public?
Whereas OSHA is supposed to be charged with protecting the job site and working conditions of the trainers and staff, and would be the most definitely the appropriate state and federal authorities to so do with jobsite safety issues.
Apparently, Cal/OSHA is merely conducting "reactive" visits to these parks and not pro-active ones, since it apparently closed its file on SeaWorld after it's investigation of this 2007 incident after losing that round after the 2007 incident in a California court was either suppressed or ignored, and I would assume since OSHA is an agency that is over thirty to forty years old, the incident with Orky from 1987 which involved a male trainer who was slammed around by the whale that was the same one that was involved in the incident in 1983-84 that we viewed agressively challenging and chasing a female trainer, who then subsequently went after a male trainer that attempted to intervene and assist the "pursued" female trainer was viewed as the "risks" of the job by higher level management and most likely not reported at all.
Clearly not investigated, since then the 1987 attack on the male trainer was AFTER our visit and that incident in 2003-2004.
Where has the federal OSHA authorities been due to the fact that this is fundamentally a national (and global) chain?
No one was hurt, luckily, in that 2003-2004 incident.
Let's hope the investigation into this latest tragedy involving another male orca that was captured in the wild, one that is linked now to three separate deaths in two different parks, results in some measure of protection for those trainers.
Perhaps in giving some credence to those suggestions some of those trainers made to the Cal/OSHA authorities as contained in this article which also apparently were ignored by corporate in order to reduce the risks which have now resulted in a violent death in Orlando.
In any event, just maybe if there had been harpoons and guns available to those trainers as a real distraction, or fewer shows and less stimulation of them since this "new and improved" show "Believe" I understand involves quite a bit of high tech gadgetry and stunts from all reports - Ms. Brancheau just might still be alive.
I mean there are actually about three to four of these shows per day, and now even huge screen TV's and loud, loud speakers with high tech "new age" type music accompanying the story line, and that would get on my nerves if I had to listen to it daily, much less three or four times per day.
But not to have adequate protectionary measures in force, or "shoot to kill" orders for some of these incidences that have subsequently resulted in human injury and now even multiple deaths begs the question, just whose life is more important?
I mean, there are no shortages of whales in captivity actually, as there are and have been numerous calves born each and every year due to the increase in the captive whale populations and their breeding programs throughout the world due to SeaWorld's past success as a commercial/educational venture in their efforts to domesticate and study them under their prior ownership, in large part.
And with tickets at over $250-300 for the average family for a visit to their parks, it would seem their profit margins have soared since the early days, and at this point, would seem to me that orcas like Tilly (and Orky before) are more of a liability than asset, what with all those vet bills and other expenses that are piling up as more and more of these incidents have occurred.
But I found really no published reports at this point tracking just how many injuries, major or minor, these trainers have been subjected to since it appears OSHA is not a frequent visitor pro-actively, nor logging or following up comprehensively on some of these reports at this now global billion dollar theme park enterprise.
Or apparently only superficially acting on them, or being quashed into submission due to corporate special interests at the state level that apparently have been sealing records, and using the California court system, at least, in order to silence and intimidate the critics, both from the public and even some in the field of animal science.
Or, perhaps in the case of some of those affected trainers, potentially the unemployment line?
Tags: Sea World , Dawn Brancheau , OSHA , Death , Park , Drowning , Believe , Shamu , Orcas , Whales
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