Could This Beautiful Attraction End Marine Animal Captivity for Good?

Blackfish already made waves in the cetacean captivity debate, but one of the former trainers featured in the documentary has done more for the cause. We met Christopher Porter, the former Sealand trainer, early on in the film; when Tilikum the Killer Whale was being transferred to SeaWorld, Porter was happy for the orca because, as he describes in the film, “it was like, ‘OK, Tilly, you’re going to Disneyland. Lucky you.” But Porter couldn’t delude himself much longer about Tilikum’s situation or the situation of marine animals in captivity, so he’s doing something to change that — and it’s called OceanWall.

OceanWall Makes its Debut

As reported in Times Colonist, Christopher Porter’s OceanWall made its grand debut on November 8 at the Hillside Centre. The huge attraction – complete with nine screens, each 3.7-meters high and 2.1-meters wide — resides in the middle of the shopping center’s food court and plays videos of the ocean and its surrounding wildlife.

As Porter told the Times Colonist, the goal of his project is to “get the general public to focus on the wild and the state of the wild as it is.” Instead of getting up close and personal to marine wildlife at a sea circus or aquarium, Porter brings the wildlife to us with the hope that we’ll still come to appreciate and protect the animals without ever drawing a picture with them, swimming with dolphins or making them perform tricks. While there will be no narration, his images are important because they capture wildlife in their normal activities; for example, the endangered polar bear hunting for salmon, instead of the abnormal stereotypic behaviors that we’ve come to accept as normal. In this way, the animals will tell their own stories.

There’s also a nuance of citizen science in Porter’s project. Everyday people can submit their own encounters with wildlife to WildVision Edutainment, of which Porter is one investor. The screens will be updated with new content regularly, and Porter hopes to bring in marine wildlife experts to “edutain” the shopping center’s visitors. While OceanWall is still getting used to its sea legs, Porter envisions it going to spas, hotel lobbies, schools and gymnasiums. I’d definitely take OceanWall over an aquarium any day.

What About the Cetaceans in Captivity Now?

While Porter’s project could address one half of the problem of cetacean captivity by preventing the need for it, it doesn’t answer the other whale of a problem: what are we going to do with the cetaceans currently stuck in captivity? While we’d love to see all of the tanks empty and every killer whale and dolphin back with their pods, realistically that’s just not going to be possible in every case. But the good news is that there is an option that gets the cetaceans back in the ocean: sea pens.

As marine mammal scientist for the Animal Welfare Institute, Naomi A. Rose, Ph.D., wrote in CNN, sea pens are netted-off bays or coves in the ocean that act as sanctuaries for the retired animals. There’d be no people gawking at them and no foreign sounds or lights. They’d live in pods, but incompatible members wouldn’t be forced to stay together like Tilikum had to and was repeatedly bullied because of it.

The only human contact would be in the form of veterinary care because captive whales are generally more unhealthy and live shorter lives compared to their wild counterparts. Captivity does kill with the host of obesity-and stereotypic-related illnesses, including bad teeth from chewing on the gates. And the most important difference between a sea pen and a sea circus: there would be absolutely no breeding. This way, the cetaceans that have had their freedom stolen from them get a piece of it back, and no future generations have to go through it again.

Do you think Porter’s OceanWall will be enough to make sea circuses a thing of the past? Are we ready to empty the tanks for good? Let us know in the comments below.

Photo Credit: Ocean Walls via Facebook


Jim Ven
Jim Ven3 years ago

thanks for the article.

Debbie Crowe
Debbie Crowe3 years ago

What a great idea!! I would love to see these beauties on an OceanWall than miserable at SeaWorld!!

Sandra I.
Sandra I4 years ago

brilliant idea -- we need to foster appreciation of wildlife in the wild, not the Salome version of love which is to cut its head of so you can possess the being of the "object" of your affection

Virginia Abreu de Paula

Maybe not enough, but it's a very good start.

Mandy H.
Mandy H4 years ago

This sounds like a great idea, I'd love to see one! It would be much better than seeing behavior which isn't anything close to natural because they're living in a false environment.

Lisbeth Alvarado Sanchez

This are great alternatives. No animal deserves to be deprived of his freedom. This is totally unacceptable.

Liliya Gianelli
Liliya Gianelli4 years ago

Great initiative! Christopher Porter, I salute you and people like you!

Angela K.
Angela K4 years ago

That's the RIGHT way !!!!!

Sarah D.
Shari F4 years ago

Just think, you can see a lion in a zoo in one of two ways. One is in a large, naturalistic enclosure and able to carry out its instinctual behaviours. This may be what you are thinking of when advocating taking children to the zoo. The other way is to see lion in a small barren cage, pacing back and forth using the same exact movements again and again as though he's slightly out of his mind.

Would you take a child to see this? This is what is happening to ALL of the killer whales that have spent any appreciable time in captivity. They develop the orca equivalent to the repeat mechanical pacing movements seen in that traumatised lion. Not some, but every sing one of them. They all do it. For years.

And that's what what we take our kids to see at SeaWorld Shamu shows.

Sarah D.
Shari F4 years ago

Jean D 'I still think things like Seaworld and zoos are a necessary evil.'

Jean, I think I understand why you say this - we need SeaWorld so that children can go and see an animal close up and come away with an awe and an appreciation of nature that they would not necessarily get from a video wall or nature film. This is the fallacy that SeaWorld promulgates. However, SeaWorld has no interest in conservation, education or it would appear - on multiple occasions - animal welfare. Watching intelligent, an emtionally rich creatures, such as killer whales, swimming around in tiny tanks and performing unnatural tricks for a food reward, is no way to teach a child about nature. These shows are not educational in any way at all. They are simply marine circuses. Would you take a child to see a tiger in a circus jump through a hoop of fire and call it educational? My worry is that children will go these marine circuses think that this is an acceptable way of relating to nature. It's not. It's artificial, it's patronising, it's profiteering and it's cruel. And cruelty is not the way to teach our children about nature.

Regarding zoos, some do have really good educational programmes, some do take conservation seriously, some do lots of behind the scenes work to help species and habitats and carry out research. But some are awful and need to be shut down immediately.

Just think, you can see a lion in a zoo in one of two ways. One is in a large, naturalistic enclosure and able t