Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Marineland Priced Out of Orca Captivity?

There has been much speculation about the recent capture of 8 wild orcas from the Sea of Okhotsk off the coast of Russia.  Captured by a company known as White Sphere the orcas currently languish in small holding tanks in Vladivostok Russia. There is little doubt they are headed to marine parks around the world but where exactly?

Author Tim Zimmermann recently interviewed Erich Hoyt who is the Co-Director of Whale & Dolphin Conservation's Far East Russia Project.  When asked by Zimmermann where he thought the orcas might end up, Hoyt had this to say:

"The rumors are China and Moscow where new facilities are coming on stream. To send the whales to China requires CITES permits and we have now found out that at least 2 CITES permits have been issued. We have no idea of the prices being offered now, but as long as 10-15 years ago, we know that a young female orca in prime condition could be worth $1 million USD. A lot depends on how many people per year pay to get into Sea World in the US, as well as paying to get into the growing number of such facilities in China, Japan and Russia. By last count, more than 120 facilities in these countries exhibit whales and/or dolphins. If there is no demand from the owners of these facilities and from the paying public, the selling price will go down and eventually there may be little or no supply offered for sale. Then the orca trafficking can stop."

For well over a year now rumors have also persisted regarding Marineland's interest in acquiring another orca.  The total collapse of their breeding program has left the facility with one remaining female orca, Kiska who has been alone for two years now and is in reportedly poor health.

Today Zimmermann sent an intriguing tweet claiming to have heard 2 of the Russian orcas were headed to China for $6 million each.

If this turns out to be accurate it certainly is an enormous price increase from years past and reflects the substantial demand for wild caught orcas.  At $6 million dollars each plus shipping and the logistics of transporting an orca to the other side of the globe, that almost certainly prices a bush-league operation like Marineland out of the orca captivity game altogether.  Only the largest of corporations may be able to afford such prices.  Marineland is thought to be coming off one of its worst financial seasons on record and is currently mired in 6 separate lawsuits.

While Marineland may be priced out of the Blackfish captivity business, they still hold the world's largest collection of captive Beluga whales, many of which were also captured from the Sea of Okhotsk.

Check out Tim Zimmermann's full interview with Erich Hoyt here:

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