The official Niagara premiere of the powerful documentary Blackfish was a huge success. The authorized screening took place in St. Catharines at the Sir Winston Churchill Secondary School auditorium where only 8 years earlier David Suzuki appeared on stage and called Marineland a "thug in the neighborhood" due to their use of SLAPP lawsuits in an attempt to silence their critics. Approximately 450 people took in the screening, held as a fundraiser for the legal defense of several former employees and critics of Marineland currently facing similar lawsuits.
Blackfish focuses on the life of captive orca Tilikum and his involvement with the deaths of three people at marine parks in Canada and the United States. The movie is also a wider comment on the dangers and inherent cruelty of keeping such magnificent and complex animals in captivity and how the captive marine mammal industry exploits them.
After the emotionally gripping film a Question & Answer session was held featuring special guests marine biologist Dr. Naomi Rose and former Seaworld trainer Samantha Berg. Both guests fielded questions on all sorts of topics from the feasibility of release programs and sanctuaries to how everyday people can get involved in opposing marine mammal captivity. Dr. Rose's assessment that the phasing out of orca captivity will happen in her lifetime, which was something she had never believed possible only a decade ago, brought a round of applause from the audience.
|PHOTO BY Carrie Ogley|
While organizers had invited all local Niagara politicians to attend, especially those from Niagara Falls City Council, only St. Catharines MP Rick Dykstra chose to accept. Dykstra took a few moments to participate in the Q&A session when a question arose regarding Canadian laws governing capture of wild marine mammals. Dykstra seemed open to the idea of working together with folks desiring the closure of Canada's so called 'wild capture loophole' which allows facilities like Marineland to capture wild animals from foreign waters and import them into Canada.
VIDEO BY Ted Traver