One teen, Zach Affolter, is making waves for captive orcas. You might remember him as the California teen who petitioned to have a neighboring high school’s prom moved from an aquarium. Now, he’s taking his activism to the big screen with his new film, Black Water – and Marineland Ontario isn’t happy about it.

According to the film’s Facebook page, “Black Water tells the sad story of Kiska, a captive orca at Marineland, Ontario. She struggles to overcome her pain and despair as they rip her apart.” In other words, it reveals point blank that captivity is no place for a whale.

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According to Marineland, Affolter is using videos and images that were illegally obtained, and that the film was made “for the purpose of causing damage to Marineland for commercial gain.” On these grounds, they’ve launched a legal suit against Affolter. Additionally, they claim that a Marineland employee who provided photos to Affolter breached an agreement which forbids “any photograph, prints or other digital media” on park property without written consent. Most absurdly, they claim that Affolter is in it for the money; or, in their words, producing the film for commercial gain. (Uh, if anyone’s in the industry for commercial gain, it’s certainly the corporations keeping wild orcas captive for human entertainment.)

“Black Water is meant as an educational, non-commercial film that dives into the moral question behind keeping cetaceans (dolphins and other whales) in captivity,” Affolter told Niagara Advance in an email. “The film is a narrative set in Kiska’s perspective that explores what these sentient, social creatures might feel when placed in a captive environment.”

And it’s never been more important to reveal the truth about their lives, and the cruelty they endure in captivity. After all, whales are intelligent and emotional beings. The brain of the orca is four times larger than the human brain, weighing in at 12 pounds. Their brains have been evolving for millions of years, while modern-day humans first emerged about 200,000 years ago, it is safe to assume that their cognitive development is at least as advanced as ours – if not considerably more so. And with complex familial and social relationships, we can gather that these creatures are highly self-aware, adaptable, and intelligent.

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Moreover, orcas are highly social animals. They live in tight matrilineal pods, composed of grandmothers, mothers, sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles, and cousins. They typically choose to remain with their immediate family group for the rest of their lives. So you can imagine the damage done to orcas when they’re cruelly torn from their natural habitat and relegated to a life spent in captivity.

This is a highly traumatizing experience for these sensitive beings. Throughout their lives in captivity, orcas display zoochotic (psychotic) behaviors, similar to symptoms of prison neurosis. Some stereotypic behaviors include swimming in circles repetitively, establishing pecking orders, and lying motionless at the surface or on the aquarium floor for relatively long periods of time. Some whales have even been driven to violence and aggression, resulting in the tragic death of their trainers. 

Affolter’s film is crucial to bringing down companies like Marineland and securing future of freedom for all orcas. While he currently does not have adequate funds for legal support against the lawsuit, he intends to defend himself in court. Affolter told Niagara Advance, “It’s sad that we live in a world where people are bullied and pushed around just for speaking their mind.” And though the release date for Black Water has been delayed, Affolter still intends to show it when the time is right.

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According to Niagara Advance, this is Marineland’s ninth lawsuit in four years. Maybe it’s time for them to look in the mirror and ask themselves who’s really at fault. Better yet, look into Kiska’s eyes – that answer should be as clear as the glass walls that keep her captive.

Image Source: Black Water/Facebook