Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Marineland Suing Georgia Straight, Travis Lupick & Vancouver Free Press

Marineland: In Depth has learned Marineland has filed a $600,000 defamation lawsuit against The Georgia Straight an online news website and weekly paper based in Vancouver, and one of its writers Travis Lupick.  Marineland is seeking $500,000 in damages for defamation and an additional $100,000 in punitive damages, the Straight's parent company the Vancouver Free Press is named in the lawsuit and it stems from an article Lupick wrote for the Straight in April of 2014.  Marineland filed their statement of claim in St. Catharines Ontario, a copy of which Marineland: In Depth has obtained.

The article written by Lupick was about five harbour seals sent to Marineland by the Vancouver Aquarium in 2005. The article was published online at The Georgia Straight and distributed in print in a weekly paper.  It features comments from 3 former Marineland trainers describing the declining health of the seals upon arrival at Marineland.  One seal passed away while the four others allegedly went blind due to poor water conditions according to ex staffers. Both Marineland and Vancouver Aquarium have refuted the claims.

In Marineland's 11 page statement of claim they allege the seal Pepper did not die as claimed but rather died in 2006 before the alleged incident in the article. The other seals named Rolo, Curry, Poppy & Squamish were not blinded as a consequence of their treatment by Marineland and remain "generally healthy" currently living at the facility.  They also allege claims by former staffers are false and have been disproved in publicly released documents or reports, none of which were mentioned in the article.  Marineland also alleges Lupick made no reasonable attempt to contact Marineland aside from an email to their general address which did not allow reasonable enough time for the park to respond.

Marineland further alleges comments by former head trainer Phil Demers are unsupported and that the defendants ought to have known "Mr. Demers has only a high school education and no formal education or qualifications that would permit him or the defendants to reasonably rely on Demers' allegations regarding water quality, water chemistry, ozone, chlorine, the health of any animal, the cause of any animal's condition, if any, or any matter that is normally address by a veterinarian who is expert in marine mammal care."  Demers worked closely with a variety of animals at the park during his 12 year tenure.

Marineland's allegations have not been proven in court.

This is the second lawsuit involving an online news website, last week it was revealed Marineland was also seeking $600,000 in damages from Digital Journal and one of its writers for a story about the health of Kiska, their last remaining captive orca.   In each suit the defendants were served a notice of libel demanding a retraction before Marineland commenced further action.   Unlike the Digital Journal article, the Georgia Straight article has not been pulled and the news site would not comment on the lawsuit.

Marineland has filed 8 separate lawsuits in the last 24 months against activists, newspapers, websites, journalists and former employees seeking a combined total of $15.4 million in damages. None of the cases have gone to trial.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

UPDATED: Marineland Launches $600k Lawsuit Against Digital Journal

Marineland has launched a lawsuit against the online news site Digital Journal. The lawsuit which was filed in Ontario Superior Court in St. Catharines, seeks $500,000 in general damages for defamation and an additional $100,000 in punitive damages. The suit names the Canadian based Digitial Journal and Elizabeth Batt, the author of an article that appeared on the website in July of 2014 about Marineland’s last remaining orca, Kiska.

Batt's story raised questions about Kiska’s health after several photos were released showing what appeared to be the 42 year old female orca in an ailing state. The article featured several opinions of former killer whale trainers from Marineland and Seaworld as well as comments from marine biologist Dr. Naomi Rose, who has studied orcas extensively. Marineland: In Depth and several other media outlets also covered the story including CBC TV and CHCH TV whose stories also featured comments from former trainers and Dr. Rose. A month after the article was published Marineland sent Digital Journal and Batt a notice of libel demanding the article be removed and a retraction published or they would face legal action.

In Marineland’s statement of claim, a copy of which Marineland: In Depth has obtained they allege statements made by individuals in the article were false, misleading and defamatory and has damaged the reputation of the facility. Marineland claims both Digital Journal and Batt should have known the statements were allegedly false and the park was not properly contacted allowing for a response. Marineland also claims Kiska, who has been captive at the park for nearly 4 decades is not sick but actually ‘thriving’.

In the last two decades over a dozen 'thriving' orcas have died at Marineland causing a complete collapse of their breeding program. In 2011 Marineland was successfully sued by Seaworld who repossessed their orca Ikaika.  The male killer whale was on loan to Marineland. Seaworld cited concerns for Ikaika’s health if he remained at the Niagara Falls facility as the main reason for repossession.  Since Ikaika was moved back to Seaworld, Kiska has remained alone.

This is the 7th lawsuit Marineland has commenced in the last 2 years. They are currently also suing 3 ex-employees, 2 activists and the Toronto Star newspaper. Legal observers widely consider the multi-million dollar lawsuits to be SLAPP suits designed to silence criticism of the facility.  Despite a similar defamation lawsuit against the Toronto Star launched early last year, that case has yet to even approach the discovery phase.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

The Orca Awareness Project

The Orca Awareness Project from Joey Cheers on Vimeo.

Love this short animated video by Vimeo artist Joey Cheers.  Parents often ask how they can approach the complex topic of captivity with their young children.  This is a good start.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Marineland Closes for Season - Deadmau5 Takes Aim

Marineland wrapped up its 53rd season this past Sunday, the day marked by another public demonstration outside the facility. Though more subdued than previous years, several hundred people still attended and held signs on public property while Marineland staff videotaped the demonstration. Several ex employees who came forward detailing alleged animal neglect at the park were also in attendance among the crowd.

Proper government intervention and tighter regulations have failed to materialize allowing Marineland to survive yet another season with few changes for the animals.  It is evident though, continued public pressure and a wider shift in attitudes regarding animal captivity have been taking its toll. Some sources close to the park say attendance is down nearly 20% over last year and a steady stream of negative press and public commentary towards the facility shows no sign of abating.

Monday night influential EDM artist and former Niagara Falls native Joel Zimmerman aka Deadmau5 posted a profanity laced tirade to his blog imploring Marineland to get rid of its animals and build more rides. Continuing the rant on Twitter, Zimmerman went so far as to allude to considering buying the park or at least crowdfunding the purchase.  Since Monday his rant has been picked up by numerous international media outlets and hit the front page of his hometown newspaper.

You know what i would do if i were you? just get rid of the animals… (not that kinda chainsaw and plastic tarp “get rid of”) but like, you know, find an amicable solution to getting rid of the animals so that PETA and all the niagara falls crusaders will get off your lawn with their fuckin signs n shit. I’m sure they wont give up anytime soon, because they don’t realize that signs and shit and “awareness” doesnt really do fuck all… which is why youre still able to pen these animals up…. whatever.

Just speaking from a spectator point of view, if im driving by on my way to my own personal crusades, im not likely going to pull over, get mad and kick heads in. Ill just say “oh look, protestors” and carry about my business.

But heres me just looking in at your shitty situation from my end… like i said, i’d just lose the fucking animals… and even if it pissed you off because you lost an asset or whatever, or potential profit from “tourists” n shit… look at what you have to gain? Youd win the entire EVERYTHING if you released a statement promising the closure of your animal pens and aquariums. That “good guy” PR would reach worldwide fuckin acclaim…. shit, even SeaWrold (who arent any fucking better by a longshot) would be like… ‘OH SNAP’ and probably forcing them into action. You’d be a fuckin world hero… and it would probably cost you the x million dollars of investments you had to spring out on fucking whales n shit and upkeep (cant imagine it would be cheap)

but hey fucknut, heres what you do… just take a fucking hit, and do it. Because, stupid, youre STILL sitting on a fucking shitload of acreage thats a theme park…. with rides and shit. WHO THE FUCK DOESNT GO TO THEMEPARKS DUMBASS? Magic mountain doesnt have 1/2 dead wales n half dead deer… do i spend a buck or 300 every year to go there? FUCK YES.

Like i said, i dont know how much it costs to keep a huge fuckin fish in a huge fucking tank, but i kinda have a good idea how much a rollercoaster costs and im sure its pretty compareable….

so from a moral and business standpoint, in my opinion, stop being a fucking bunch of morons and just do the right thing. what are you fucking broke? no. It’s a brilliant idea / long game and a hell of an investment…. but youll make youre return… receive worldwide attention for your acts of valor… even tho you needed to be pressured into it anyway, and my personal facebook timeline wont be full of shit about how shitty you are.

thats it.

believe me, if i had the kind of money you’d want to buy your shit operation out, i’d do it myself in a heartbeat… and im probably not far off, so you might wanna hop on this shit.

- Joel Zimmerman

Zimmerman is no friend of activists but his rant rang true for a lot of people who believe Marineland could simply win the PR war by ending its animal program and shifting its business model to a more ride focused attraction. As more influential people like Zimmerman continue to speak out against the animal program at Marineland it is anyone's guess as to how many more years the park can survive the tide of turning public opinion.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Follow the money...

With a municipal election coming next month in Niagara Falls its important to know where the candidates stand on issues such as the leasing of public land to Marineland to block demonstrators.  If past financial contributions is any indicator on how these candidates will vote in the future, its a good bet they won't be supporting the public.  If you're a Niagara Falls resident, vote accordingly.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Another Beluga Death at Marineland Highlights Media Failures

Ceta-Base is a website that tracks the worldwide inventory of captive marine mammals. In some countries, including Canada facilities are not required to release or even keep complete inventory records of their 'collection' or make them available to the public. Typically, most marine parks operate in secrecy and arrivals, births and especially deaths are often not made public. Ceta-Base uses various sources of information such as import/export permits, news articles and eyewitness accounts and photos to piece together complete inventory lists for aquariums from around the world, including Marineland.

This past week Ceta-Base broke the news that a male Beluga whale named Beyli had died at Marineland on August 24th. No announcement was made from Marineland about the death. Three days later the local media picked up the story of the Beluga's death and Marineland was forced to issue a statement:

"We are sad to confirm that Beyli, a beluga whale, passed away recently. Beyli was close to 40 years of age and died of natural causes as a result of old age. Throughout his life with us, Beyli was in excellent health until his passing. Beyli was one of the first beluga whales to join us in 1999. He arrived at Marineland from a military facility in Russia. Since that time Marineland has built the most successful beluga breeding facilities in the world offering scientists and the public unique opportunities to learn about this incredible species."

Marineland's statement was published in the local QMI Agency owned newspapers in Niagara as well as the Toronto Sun and syndicated online at Canoe.ca which are both QMI properties. The local newspaper published a response to the Beluga's death from activist Mike Garrett which was edited out of the Toronto Sun and Canoe stories. Local talk radio station CKTB also reported on the death providing nothing more than Marineland's statement.

Marineland's Beluga program got off to a rocky start when they petitioned the Federal government for permits to capture wild Beluga whales off the coast of Manitoba in the late 90's. Marineland had requested to capture four females and two males, juveniles between the ages of 2 and 4. Public protest erupted over the captures and the Federal government refused to grant Marineland the permits to capture whales within Canadian waters.

Marineland turned to Russia where there are virtually nonexistent regulations for capturing wild marine mammals and no import permits required by Canada. According to Russian activists Marineland's original Belugas were captured from the Sea of Okhotsk by a Russian hunter also responsible for butchering Belugas for the Japanese whale meat market. The first Belugas were captured in 1994, including Beyli and were shipped to Marineland in mid 1999.

Marineland's claim that Beyli is close to 40 yrs old at the time of his death would put his age at capture around 20 years old in 1994. This goes against Marineland's own original mission to capture juvenile whales. All aquariums capture juvenile cetaceans to ensure they can breed and exploit them for years before their premature deaths in captivity. Marineland expects the public to believe they went all the way to Russia to capture a middle aged Beluga whale. The media doesn't question this logic.

All media outlets who reported on the story failed to question the validity of Marineland's statement or ask why Marineland did not announce the death at all until it was made public by Ceta-Base. They did not question Marineland's claims that Beyli was close to 40 years old nor did they ask how many other Belugas have died at the Niagara Falls facility and why they hold the world's largest collection of captive Belugas in the first place. In fact, no questions were asked at all. If any of the media outlets who reported on the story had bothered to do any research at all they would have discovered Marineland's statement that Beyli was close to 40 years old and died of 'old age' is an outright lie. Simply regurgitating a press release seems to be what passes for reporting these days and failing to ask even sensible questions highlights the problem with the media when reporting on Marineland.