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Follow-up on Perspective from Speaking at the Vancouver Park Board Meeting Following Decision on Keeping Captive Cetaceans and Breeding Programs

Chris Porter, Former Tilikum Trainer, Founder of Orca Safe and Speaker Number 5 at Park Board Meeting, Shares Thoughts on Past and Future of Whales in Captivity

NEW YORK, Aug. 15, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- ( newswire) --, a global news source covering leading sectors including the environment and water, released an editorial in July on the Vancouver Park Board meetings held Saturday, July 26th and Monday, July 28th.  The special meetings addressed the issue of keeping captive cetaceans (like whales and dolphins) in the Vancouver Aquarium at Stanley Park.

One hundred and thirty three speakers signed up to speak and there was a very clear split between supporters of the Vancouver Aquarium (who were mostly paid employees) and a passionate group of speakers who thought the outdated practice of captivity and breeding needed to come to an end. editor and founder, Dawn Van Zant, attended as a speaker and shared her first-hand perspective and insight on the two-day waiting experience to speak for three minutes.

Original article and editorial:

The Park Board Commissioners met on Thursday, July 31st and voted unanimously to allow the aquarium to keep whales and dolphins in captivity but did order an end to the breeding program (unless it was to preserve a threatened species).  They also ordered the creation of a third party oversight committee, consisting of animal welfare experts, to ensure the well-being of the captive animals. This was one of the many proposals the SPCA had put forth that the Aquarium immediately rejected.

It was not a complete victory for the activists speaking on behalf of the whales and dolphins, but the social media lit up with words of encouragement and praise for such a historic decision within the industry.

On the weekend of August 8th, 9th and 10th, owners Dawn and Cali Van Zant had the unforgettable experience of seeing a superpod of over 40 Orcas pass through Active Pass on Galiano Island, BC.  On Saturday, they also met with Chris Porter, who shared a wealth of knowledge and insight into the past and future practice of keeping whales and dolphins in captivity.

Videos: Orcas in Active Pass Galiano Island, BC August 8th

Chris Porter, founder of Orca Safe ( was speaker number 5 on Saturday July 26th.  Chris spoke very honesty about working with aquariums and whales in captivity in the past and how he has a very different outlook on it today. Chris was also one of the Tilikum trainers interviewed in the very high profile documentary, Blackfish.

Chris shared the following thoughts on Orcas in the wild versus captivity and how technology can play a key role in education and entertainment in the future.

"I have tickled the tongue of a killer whale. I have witnessed a killer whale give birth. I have scratched the dorsal fin of Tilikum to ease his itch under the curve of the dorsal fin. All of these were good memories. I have also witnessed a mom drown her calf, a father try to kill his calf and a frustrated orca bang his head repeatedly against a concrete post in his pool. All of these are heartbreaking memories.

I did it because I thought a captive orca's sacrifice was worth it. That their life on display for the general public was worth the family separations, worth the curved dorsal fins, worth the grounded teeth, worth the frustration demonstrated by the animals. I felt it was worth it because I was told we were educating the public about wild killer whales. We were making the general public "care" about the animals, "care" about protecting the wild, "care" about doing things right.

Well, after 50 years of the sacrifice of captive orcas, we have proven that we have made zero impact on the health of the wild orca population.

It turns out captivity is not worth the sacrifice I thought it was.

More alarming, our capturing of these animals to make them ambassadors has nearly decimated the chance of reproduction recovery of the Southern Resident Killer Whales. The same animals we kept to educate people, are in fact worse off than when we first started.

The last two years I have been fortunate to see REAL killer whales, wild ones. I have swum in their waters and heard their calls. Felt their wake and looked in awe at the magnificence of these amazing animals. Tall straight dorsal fins, strong family groups and lots and lots of energy and frolic. As somebody told me, it is like you are watching God, no matter what form you perceive that to be.

In order to protect these animals, we must focus on them in their natural habitat. We must learn more about their daily lives, their feeding patterns, their difficulties, their struggles, their joys. In order to make those 50 years of failed sacrifice mean anything, we must take that knowledge and apply it to the wild.

It is for this reason I have embarked on Ocean Walls. Ocean Walls are "whalesize" HD interactive displays that focus on the wild killer whales and their precious habitat that we must work hard to preserve. Technology allows us to expand deeper and more immersive into their environment. We no longer have to hold something in a pool to see how it lives.

Technology now allows us to be a guest into the wild, without impacting the wild. Ocean Walls is dedicated to captivating people, and keeping the wild free! Only this way can we ensure that our impact, our presence and our concern is focused where it needs to be, on the wild.

Learn from my heartaches and my experiences. Captivity only shows us how cruel our good intentions can be. Let's do something WILD and help whales where they actually need it, in their home waters."

Christopher Porter

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