Dirty Little Secrets: Seaworld’s History

     Most of Seaworld’s supporters like to present the park as though it is a saint. Helping animals, providing them a state of the art facility, lots of room to swim, and the best care possible. What they may fail to realize is that Seaworld hasn’t always cared so much about animals. In fact, their first whales and dolphins were kept in tanks only as big as a backyard swimming pool.

Shamu the killer whale at Seaworld San, Diego in 1966

     The captivity industry was built on wild captures, and Seaworld also has a long history with this form of animal acquisition. In fact, the  processes Seaworld used to capture the whales were so violent that they were actually illegal and landed them in court.

“We saw this huge floatilla of boats and so forth coming towards us chasing these whales down into souther Puget Sound using explosive devices dropped from the airplane and all kinds of tactics that weren’t allowed in the permit that they had been given. It appeared to me that the captor stood there and lit these underwater explosive devices as fast as he can light them. It sounded like a war…it was one of the most gruesome things I have ever seen. Consequently we went to court and really started to dig in to who was behind all this and we found that it was Seaworld.” Former Washington Secretary of State Ralph Monroe

    Don Goldsberry and Ted Griffin, are famous whale captors that have been hired by many parks across the country, including Seaworld. They are responsible for massive whale captures that ended with the imprisonment of such famous whales as Lolita of Miami Seaquarium, the first Shamu, and the first orca in captivity, Namu. After Lolita’s capture in Penn Cove, Washington, the bodies of 4 orcas washed up on the beach, slit open and weighed down with chains. After months of denial, Don Goldsberry finally fessed up and admitted that they had died during the Penn Cove capture, and that he and Ted Griffin had anchored them to the bottom in hopes of hiding their deaths 1

    After their whale captors were turned in for permit violations, Seaworld tried to settle out of court, but that only happened after they reluctantly agreed to stop capturing whales in Washington’s waters. 

  Despite taking responsibility for the deaths of 4 whales, several permit violations that put him and Seaworld in court, and a known history of violent captures…Don Goldsberry became the Vice President of Animal Collections at Seaworld.

    After Seaworld was forced to stop all capture from Washington waters, they set up an operation with the Icelandic goverment to recieve permits for killer whales from their waters. The whales that Seaworld captured in Iceland would be stored away at various foreign dolphin parks for months or years until they recieved a US permit for import of the animals they already captured. From 1976-1978 at least 9 whales were sent straight from Iceland to Seaworld. In October of 1987 Brad Andrews Seaworld’s chief zoological officer, whale captor Don Goldsberry, and Seaworld curator Jim Antrim were documented by Sea Shepherd Organization on an Icelandic ship called the “Gudrun.” They claimed they were doing a survey on killer whales, but a holding tank was ready for the whales they were planning to capture, in Reykjavik Iceland.

    One of these ‘hidden whales’ captured in Iceland and stored until further notice, was Junior. He was kept in a warehouse at Marineland in Canada until he died.2

Junior was kept for many years, hidden away in a warehouse until he died.

    Those who stand behind Seaworld are largely against wild capture, but still will claim that theirs is a Corporation that is concerned for animal welfare, even though it has a long history with these cruel, and controversial methods.

    Seaworld supporters also view Seaworld as an independant Corporation. While it is nice to seperate Seaworld from the rest of the captivity industry and focus on its state of the art facility, it can’t be denied that Seaworld has, and has had in the past, buisness relations with foreign facilities that are not so state of the art, and in some cases, could be considered abusive.

    Just this summer, Seaworld bought sperm from Kshamenk, no doubt paying big bucks to an Argentinian theme park called Mundo Marino. The money Seaworld gave to the Mundo Marino will help keep the park afloat, continuing to keep their animals in confinement as pictured below.3

In summer of 2011 Seaworld paid this theme park to obtain the sperm of their orca Kshamenk, a solitary whale living in horrible conditions. They proceeded to artificially insemiate 2 of their whales now rumored to be pregnant.

          In 1987 Seaworld was contacted by the Dolphinarium Harderwijk in Holland. They wanted to trade animals for false killer whales. Seaworld had no false killer whales so contacted the fishermen of Iki Island, Japan.

“Starting in the early 80s Seaworld, which had developed a buisness relationship, and a professional relationship with Kamogawa Seaworld in Japan, had learned that it might be possible to enter into a buisness relationshp with the Iki Island fishermen who had largely phased out the drive fisheries because of the negative worldwide publicity in the late 70s, to start selectively driving dolphins including false killer whales into shallow water where Seaworld, and other oceanariums including Marine World, could select the beautiful few…and then allow the fishermen to slaughter the remaining whales… By the time I had moved to San Diego as research scientist, Seaworld had several false killer whales in captivity that had been obtained through this drive fishery that they stimulated. Seaworld obtained permits from the fishery service to import 6 false killer whales in the late 1980s. They sent a capture team to Iki Island, Japan and caught 12 false killer whales.” – John Hall PhD. Former marine biologist at Seaworld3

 In response to this, Fred Jacobs, vice president for communications for SeaWorld, said that in the 1980s SeaWorld “saved” some animals from Japanese drive fisheries.4


    Through a permit given to them by the dolphin fisheries, Seaworld obtained 4 false killer whales to give to Dolphinarium Harderwijk and used them as trading materials in exchange for the killer whale they had captured named Gudrun. The permit that Seaworld obtained for Gudrun stated that she was to be used for breeding purposes. But like all orca whales at Seaworld, she was put on public display. 5.

     Gudrun gave birth to 3 calves. The first was Taima, and the second was Nyar, which was so physically and mentally ill that Gudrun attempted to drown her. She died at the age of 2. Gudrun died 4 days after passing her third child- a stillborn calf.6

    In 2011, Seaworld was involved again with the Dolphinarium. Their “sister facility” whom they have buisness relations with: Loro Parque reportedly used 4 dolphins as trading materials to Dolphinarium Harderwijk in exchange for their killer whale named Morgan, which they will loan to Loro Parque, in Spain.7

    Seaworld is the richest, most politically powerful powerful park in the captivity industry. By holding buisness relations and sharing the captivity industry, they encourage, and help fund foreign parks that use primitive training methods, offer disgusting living conditions, or capture their animals directly from the wild. Because of Seaworld, the captivity industry has taken off. Swim with dolphin programs and similar establishments have appeared across the globe. But not all of them are modern or humane. By supporting Seaworld you are supporting and even helping to fund these facilities.

1. http://www.10news.com/news/13334667/detail.html







More information on the Seaworld-Japan relationship:


Much of this information was derived from the movie “A Fall From Freedom.” For more information on Seaworld’s secrets watch the movie here:



13 thoughts on “Dirty Little Secrets: Seaworld’s History

  1. wow great article =)…i’m a huge orca lover….they are magnificent majestic creatures of the ocean….free killer whales in captivity

  2. Pingback: SeaWorld, Japon, Europe : petits crimes entre amis ! | Free Dolphins Belgium

  3. Killer whales have been sighted off the coast of Cornwall and there’s concern they’ll start coming closer to land and regularly too. I doubt it – the real sharks in this country are in the Coalition and they’re far too malicious for mere killer whales to tangle with.

  4. Even “state of the art” SeaWorld simply too primitive (for cetaceans, who live in, not for visitors who go in and out), and too business-orintied, it should be obvious. “Humane” captivity can’t possibly exist, it is inhumane even for humans! Being restricted in responses is worrying and dangerous thing by itself, and yeah, Sea World happily “installed” their “standards” as to how to handle “animals” (even if we now known they not JUST animals, not as they were seen back in 60x-70x – still their training methods remains the same, mostly.) as how to perform swim-with-dolphins [unfortunately, this is nearly universally swim ON TOP OF dolphins, without any respect, let alone pipeline-like nature of these attractions – you got your “10 min in water”, then ejected by next visitor – maximize profit, everything else is not important! 😦 ]. Their “delete everything negative” policy simply anti-educational, and i must say castrating. they never admit their errors! This is … simply VERY wrong. So, they set VERY negative example, when you can do all those things and everything is allowed as long as you bring $$$ into someone private pockets, plust bits of taxes to various “watchdog/control” agencies, lobbysts, etc ….

  5. Great atricle!
    As an activist for the welfare of our ocean and cetacean I’ve read some points I didn’t know.
    This article is a help for a work to free all Orcas.
    Great Job!

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