• Don Lichterman

Long Gone Wild, Japan's whale "research", J17 (Princess Angeline) & KA25 lost at A Whale of a Week!

SeaWorld to Salvation: New Film Reveals Hope for Captive Orcas

Despite intense backlash from Blackfish, a film released in 2013 that sent SeaWorld's stock into a tailspin, not much has changed for the orcas held captive there.


Now a new documentary, Long Gone Wild, aims to provide an in-depth look at the case against captivity.

Freedom is finally on the horizon for the 10 orcas and 87 beluga whales who have been held captive for months, some since last summer, in Russia’s Srednyaya Bay. Last week, the Russian government began moving eight of the 97 cetaceans. All 97 animals are expected to be returned to the Sea of Okhotsk (approximately 1,100 miles away from the “whale jail”), where they were originally captured.


Charles Vinick, executive director of the Whale Sanctuary Project, provided Russian officials with advice from an international team of scientists on the best way to transport the animals without harming them. “While they are not able to follow all of our recommendations, we hope they can follow as many as possible,” Vinick told the BBC.

The news comes months after PETA and its affiliates, The Whale Sanctuary Project, conservationists, directors, and actors, including Pamela Anderson, urged Russian President Vladimir Putin to rehabilitate and release the animals back into the open ocean. “Thank God things have started moving,” Putin reportedly said last week during a televised phone-in. Had the Russian president heeded our plea last year to call off the cetaceans’ initial capture, there’d be no need to coordinate their release now.

“Will you ensure that Russian orcas and beluga whales are protected and halt plans to take them from the Sea of Okhotsk?” Anderson asked Putin on behalf of PETA U.S. in an urgent letter sent one year ago.

Although we’re pleased that Russian officials are now freeing these animals from their “whale jail,” they shouldn’t have been captured in the first place.


According to Russian Deputy Prime Minister Alexei Gordeyev, the country hopes to learn from its “whale jail” disaster—the Russian government has plans to clamp down on a law that allows the capture of cetaceans for “educational and cultural purposes.”The change would mean an end to the Russian commercial trade in cetaceans.


Originally published on April 10, 2019:

Great news! Relief is coming for the nearly 100 whales and orcas who have been held captive for months, some since last summer, in Russia’s Srednyaya Bay. After pleas from dozens of celebrities, conservationists, and members of the public, Russia signed an agreement today with a group of international scientists, including Jean-Michel Cousteau, to release the mammals back into the wild. Scientists have committed to developing a release plan for the whales by next month.


The agreement includes the construction of a special rehabilitation facility for the whales that will mimic their natural environment and act as a treatment facility for any of the injured or sick animals.


Original post published March 19, 2019:

Time is running out for more than 80 beluga whales and 10 orcas who are being held captive in Russia’s Srednyaya Bay. And a dedicated group of actors, directors, and conservationists have had enough.

“We cannot stress enough that the lives of these whales are in danger, and they need immediate help,” reads a letter sent to Russian President Vladimir Putin signed by over 30 members of the entertainment and environmental communities. While orcas can travel up to 140 miles a day in the wild, this group of captive cetaceans has been imprisoned in severely crowded cages that are, at most, 27 meters long by 15 meters wide since last summer.


This ongoing story has captured the attention of advocates across the entertainment industry as well as famous conservationists and philanthropists. Actors Pamela Anderson, Holly Marie Combs, Adrian Grenier, Kate Mara, Edward Norton, and Maisie Williams—who has spoken out in the past against SeaWorld’s captive-cetacean programs—have all signed their names in support of these animals’ right to live freely. Directors Gabriela Cowperthwaite and Louie Psihoyos, who advocated for captive marine mammals with their documentaries Blackfish and The Cove, as well as primatologist Jane Goodall and marine expert Jean-Michel Cousteau have also signed their names in support of the efforts to return these whales to the ocean.


This is not the first time that honorary PETA U.S. director Pamela Anderson has reached out to Putin about this issue. In the summer of 2018, she urged him to call off the initial plan to capture these wild animals, which would subject them to a miserable life in captivity. The whales’ plight also received significant attention after actor and environmentalist (and Beyond Meat investor!) Leonardo DiCaprio tweeted his support for their release.

In addition to asking that the animals be released back into the Sea of Okhotsk, the letter requests that the government give them more space to swim and to address the temperature and stagnation of the water to prevent ice buildup while they remain in these holding cells and notes, “These steps are critical for the whales’ survival.”

“THIS IS AN IMPORTANT MOMENT FOR RUSSIA ON THE WORLD STAGE.​ THE WORLD IS WAITING FOR A HAPPY ENDING IN THIS TRAGIC AND UNFORTUNATE SITUATION.”

Read the full letter.


Animals already being held captive at marine parks here in Asia need your help. Please don’t visit marine parks, zoos, or aquariums because as long as people continue to buy tickets, animals will continue to suffer.


It breaks my heart to share with you that we may have lost two more orcas in the Pacific Northwest.


J17 (known as Princess Angeline) and K25 have not been spotted in weeks, and experts fear the worst. Both orcas appeared to be near starvation at last sight.


Southern resident orcas are in a life or death struggle. We need you with us to double down on our efforts to save this population from extinction.


Please help save starving orcas and other vulnerable animals!

Princess Angeline is the mother of Tahlequah (J35), the southern resident orca who lost her baby at birth last summer. You may recall she then carried her dead calf on her head for 17 days on a "tour of grief."


And K25, a young male, has been deteriorating ever since he lost his mother in 2017.


These orcas are starving to death. Outdated dams across the region, particularly four dams built on the Snake River, are drastically depressing numbers of Chinook salmon, the orcas' main source of food. Salmon populations have crashed since those dams were built.


We're running out of time to help the last southern resident orcas.


Making matters worse, these orcas also struggle with water pollution. A deadly mix of chemicals, including pesticides, industrial solvents and other poisons wash into the Salish Sea (including Puget Sound) when it rains. In fact, these orcas are among the most contaminated marine mammals in the world.


We'll do whatever it takes to end this crisis – are you with us?

We can't bear to see any more of these at-risk orcas lost to starvation and pollution. We're working with local and national officials to stop deadly water pollution, restore salmon habitat, and remove barriers to spawning for these whales' primary food source.


Orcas are extraordinary animals. They nurture their young, mourn their dead, and use language to communicate. It's heartbreaking to see them suffering.

I know you want to help. Please help today to save the wildlife we love.


Japan's whale hunting "research" has always been a sham. But now that they've left the International Whaling Commission, there's no one checking their actions.


It's whaling season again in Japan, but this year they've taken their annual massacre of whales to a new level. Rather than dodge the rules and exploit loopholes in the international ban on whaling, Japan simply left the International Whaling Commission altogether. Without this nominal oversight, their already legally dubious whaling operations will go unchecked.

Tell Japan to reverse course and rejoin the international commission and respect ban on whaling.


Humans have already nearly hunted whales to extinction. That's why countries banded together 73 years ago to stop the industry before there were no whales left to kill. But Japan has lived on the edge. Each year, Japanese whaling vessels marked "RESEARCH" in all caps and English, have killed dozens of whales. This so-called "research" ends with whale meat being sold for profit, revealing itself for what it truly is: just another means of hunting.


Without the imprimatur of belonging to the International Whaling Commission, Japan has increased its commitment to kill whales. This year, they plan to kill 383 whales.


The international community can't allow Japan to put whales' survival at risk.


Sign the petition to demand Japan end their annual whale hunts and recommit to a real ban on international whaling.


And, more than 180 gray whales have been found dead since beginning their epic annual spring migration north, and there is no end in sight.


Many of these whales are emaciated, a likely sign they are slowly starving to death and didn’t get enough to eat during their last feeding season. The crisis is already so dire that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration declared it an Unusual Mortality Event.


Gray whales are just the tip of the iceberg. These heartbreaking deaths are a signal the greater ocean ecosystem is in trouble. The stakes are sky-high for the entire Pacific and Arctic coast ecosystem and all the marine life that call it home.


Without a healthy ocean ecosystem and food web, gray whales and other marine life will continue to starve and die. No organization is better positioned to fight for the health of our oceans – off the U.S. West Coast and around the world – than us. 


As the largest international organization focused solely on protecting the world’s oceans, we work along gray whales’ entire migration route – from their calving grounds off Mexico to their feeding grounds off Alaska’s Arctic coast.


By reducing overfishing, protecting critical habitat, stopping the expansion of offshore oil drilling in the Arctic and advancing science-based ocean management, we’re making progress.


With Wavemakers like you by our side, we’ve already:

  • Secured landmark protections for hundreds of forage fish species – including krill, smelts, lanternfish, squids and silversides – that support the diets of whales and other vulnerable marine life.

  • Secured emergency fishery closures so sardines – whose population size crashed by 98.5 percent since 2006 – can recover, and sea lion pups won’t go hungry. Safeguarded more than 140,000 square miles of fragile seafloor habitat from the disastrous impacts of bottom trawling.

  • Defended gray whale feeding grounds and migration routes from expanded offshore oil drilling and exploration in the Arctic and by passing legislation in California and Oregon.

This science-based progress happens because Oceana Wavemakers like you refuse to back down. Wavemakers like you come together to support our work every step of the way. It’s that passion and dedication we’re counting on again to make the difference for gray whales and all wildlife that call our oceans home.


The Oceana Tide Pool will be used to match future Wavemaker contributions and help save orcas and other marine life facing some of the greatest dangers our oceans have ever seen.






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Don.Lichterman@DonLichterman.com

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