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I saw the movie Blackfish last week at the BELL| Lightbox theatre in Toronto.

It Premiered at the Sundance Film Festival this year and received awards.


The movie was partly an expose about the number of times trainers have been attacked by orcas while being held captive and the number of times trainers have been killed by orcas in their facilities.

The documentary, Blackfish, mostly  addressed the morals of whether Orcas should be held captive at all.

The focus is on Tillikum, the largest Orca living in captivity. It addressed the question of whether this one particular whale, known for killing trainers, should have been allowed to be sold and resold for public exhibition and for live breeding.

It reviewed the suggestion that his aggressiveness would be passed on genetically and it reviewed the opposing view that his aggressiveness was caused by his early kidnapping as a 2 year old, the trauma it caused to him due to the bombs and high speed chases conducted by the operators during his capture and the separation anxiety, loneliness and grief caused from being torn away from his mother and family pod.  It focused on his the confinement to a small tank blackened out with no light and no ability to move or swim for 2/3rds of his life. Physical bullying and bites by other Orcas not of his pod were a factor as well as his great size.

Orcas swim in pods and never leave their mothers.

Each pod has a unique language that they speak.

MRI’s conducted in science show their brain is highly developed and larger than humans, with an added extension outward of the brain that centres on emotion.

The movie solidified my thoughts that whales should not be held in captivity, and I for one am very pleased that the Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada will not exhibit whales.



Public awareness and concern over marine life has grown over the years. The list of concerns , including netting, over fishing,  shark fin cutting, and the capturing of aquatic mammals has influenced our practices and  now we see a number of aquariums like the Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada will not exhibit marine mammals such as dolphins and whales.

Currently, sharks, and manta rays are the aquatic attractions more often used to educate the public and to draw crowds.

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The Aquarium of Barcelona Education Centre opened in 1995, serves as an outreach, education and entertainment centre. It’s Dive with the Sharks program puts visitors 8yrs and up into scuba gear, and teaches its basics in order to submerge them underwater behind an enclosure of large acrylic sheets on a moving runway. The runway moves the visitors and a monitor down under and into the Oceanarium tank to see the rays, sharks and fish swim up close to them while behind the acrylic panels. Family and friends are able to observe from outside the water and share the experience. The program is promoted for birthday parties, and summer camps as well as the everyday visit.

sleepwithsharks-header1Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada will have live shows at their Ray Bay and Rainbow Reef with a live diver inside the tank and an educator outside the tank. Another program called “Sleep with the Sharks” will give children an opportunity to explore the aquarium in the evening and participate in hands on educational experiences. This will be followed with a snack before the children slip into their sleeping bags for a sleep-over in the shark tunnel.

The scope of public education and outreach programming being created by aquariums using sharks and rays varies wildly, and as we know with each one comes the possibility of protest as well as pleasured enlightenment.