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04 December 2013
Talking Point: In Black and White

Talking Point: In Black and White

In my parents’ house, there is a framed picture gathering dust in a cupboard somewhere of two leaping dolphins captured in flight.Blackfish

The snap was taken on a family holiday to California more than 20 years ago at SeaWorld in San Diego.

Although it is the bottlenose dolphins in the frame, the star of the show was undoubtedly the mighty Killer Whale, ending the show with a splash and drenching the front rows of the arena.

I was transfixed at the time but confess had not given much thought to the show until watching Blackfish, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January and was aired on the BBC last month.

Focusing on the death in 2010 of trainer Dawn Brancheau at the hands of Tilikum, the largest of its SeaWorld’s Orcas, it was a shocking and brutal investigation into the impact that captivity and performing has on the mammals.

Inevitably, as we saw the whale with his deflated dorsal fin, isolated in his own tank only brought out to ‘take a bow’ at the daily shows in the Orlando theme park, the question was asked, ‘should the practice continue?’

A telling comment from one of the interviewees was that without the SeaWorld shows, the Orca would not be the universally popular animal that it is today. These circus shows have allowed us to get closer than we could have ever imagined to one of the world’s truly stunning beasts.

On the flipside, pods of Killer Whales are still a regular sight across Scotland, particularly around the Small Isles and Skye and Shetland, Orkney and Caithness.

Last month, the Government finished consulting on its vision for a network of marine protected areas, adding extra layers of protection to the marine species that live in the waters around Scotland.

The network is not perfect, environmental groups have already said there need to be improvements, but it is hoped that, as well as a new National Marine Plan, these efforts will allow sealife to thrive in the years to come – as unhindered by man in the modern world as is possible.

Killer Whales, dolphins, basking sharks they are all iconic species. Thankfully, I no longer need to go to a theme park and watch one jumping through hoops to catch a glimpse of one.

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