interviewInterview with Jim McBain and Brad Andrews.McBain is Director of Veterinary Service, Sea World Inc. and Andrews is Vice President, Zoological Operations, Sea World, Inc,.



THE PRODUCERS OF FREE WILLY SAY YOU WANTED THE SCRIPT CHANGED TO REFLECT BETTER ON THE AQUARIUM BUSINESS.

The producers from Free Willy - the first Free Willy - they wanted to shoot the picture here. We talked to them about that. We looked at the script, and we didn't agree with them with the outcome of the story. They wanted to use our facility and we wanted to, you know, tell the right story. It's as simple as that. They went to a sub-standard facility in Mexico, and shot it down there.

WHAT WAS WRONG WITH THE SCRIPT?

The script indicated the release of the animal after the long-term care. And that's basically what we've been talking about--that animal is not a good candidate. And it tells the wrong story to the public. It tells them that you know,' be free, be happy, and enjoy life.' Well, that's not the way it works.

It's certainly the over-simplification of something that's very complex. And an assumed outcome that would, very likely , in real life, be exactly the opposite. And moving the killer whale on a boat trailer is humorous at best

THE MOVEMENT OF TILLIKUM FROM CANADA TO THE UNITED STATES.... TELL ME THAT STORY. HOW DID THE RELATIONSHIP WITH ICELAND - THE CASE WAS REFERRED TO THE ICELANDIC AUTHORITIES FOR SOME SORT OF CLARIFICATION ON WHETHER OR NOT THE WHALE SHOULD BE RELEASED. HOW DID THAT HAPPEN?

Actually, Brad's the right one to ask.

The import permit from the National Fisheries Service, which is the U.S. government agency, to import Tillikum from Victoria, Canada had a condition to it that we would check with the Icelandic Ministry of Fisheries on the feasibility of Tillikum being a candidate for release in Icelandic waters. Seeing as it was a condition to that permit, we asked them the feasibility and what they thought. They responded with a letter that it's not a good idea and we don't want it to happen.

Tillikum was imported under a National Fisheries Services import, which is a U.S. government agency, and one of the conditions of the permit stated that we should check with the Icelandic Ministry of Fisheries to find out if that particular animal was a good candidate for release on Icelandic waters. We went to them, asked them what they thought, and they said, no.

WHICH MIRRORED YOUR OWN OPINION?

Absolutely. It mirrored our opinion.

AND THEY KNEW IT?

I don't know if they knew it.

IT HAS BECOME A TEMPLATE NOW FOR ANYTHING THAT'S GOING TO HAPPEN IN THE FUTURE.

Well, it makes scientific sense. To take an animal that has lived in the care of man for that many years eating fish from many oceans and living with animals from varied backgrounds--I think there's a concern, even though it's incredibly small--if your existing natural populations of animals are healthy, to introduce an animal from that long-term captive environment, carries with it the risk of introduction of disease in the form of organisms that may be foreign to that environment--and they may be organisms that don't even affect, if we're talking about killer whales, maybe it won't even affect the killer whale. It might be something that came from herring, that came from another ocean. The risks are minuscule, but they're still there, and there's just no point in jeopardizing a healthy environment by introducing a major unknown like that.

THE ANIMAL WELFARE, AND --THIS IS SORT OF BASICALLY THE BOTTOM LINE HERE-- THE ANIMAL WELFARE PEOPLE WILL SAY THAT YOU--LOBBED A SLOW PITCH TO THE ICELANDERS, TO HIT A HOME RUN, AND THEY'RE GOING TO HAVE TO DEAL WITH IT, IF THEY EVER DO APPLY TO GET KEIKO RETURNED.

We don't play games, and we don't play baseball. The National Fisheries Service asked the question. We didn't. The Icelandic government responded. We didn't. We had nothing to do with the question, nor the answer. So whoever thinks that we lobbed anything into the picture, is absolutely off base.

Something else--I think that needs to be understood, is this isn't an opinion that's only Iceland's and only Sea World's. This is a pretty widely held position--a lot of conservation biologists, I think--in Canada there was a document done by a commission--the Ministry of Fisheries and Oceans--that actually reflects this same concern. I believe also there was one in Barcelona, Spain. There's a U.S. Navy document which investigated the feasibility of returning dolphins from the U.S. Navy back to the wild, and the conclusions come up pretty much the same every time. That to risk the wild population for a reintroduction doesn't make any sense. There is no real justification for doing that where a wild population is already healthy.

THE DOCUMENTATION ON THE TRANSFER OF GUDRUN TO THE UNITED STATES FROM HOLLAND SHOWS QUITE CLEARLY THAT SEAWORLD USA WAS ESSENTIALLY TRADING SEAWORLD KAMOGAWA ANIMALS FOR THE TRANSACTION. HOW COULD THAT POSSIBLY HAVE HAPPENED?

I havent seen that type of paperwork. The only paperwork that I was open to and that is in our record books today, are the different governmental exchanges of the animals going from one facility to another. If Sea World had the opportunity to transfer--you can't transfer somebody else's animals, unless you buy them, or you're going to give them something for them in the future. It's like, it's almost like trading sports--you'll go to this club, and in the future, we'll provide you with 2 younger players, because he's worth this much. I have no idea if that is what happened.

BUT YOU SAY, IT WOULD RAISE THE POSSIBILITY, HYPOTHETICALLY, AT LEAST, THAT THEYWERE REALLY SEA WORLD USA's ANIMALS AT THE KAMOGAWA FACILITY IN JAPAN?

Hypothetically, I can.

COULD THAT POSSIBLY BE THE CASE?

No idea. Again, the paperwork that I was privy to was simply the government papers of--import and exports, and it says, from A to B, and it didn't say that C owned A and was taking the B for these animals.

BUT THE IMPLICATION'S THERE, ISN'T IT?

No. Not in my estimation, because of what I saw there was no implication of anything.

IF I'M WORKING FOR SEA WORLD, ACQUIRING A KILLER WHALE FROM AN AQUARIUM IN HOLLAND--AND I'M TRADING--WITH--ORCAS FROM A FACILITY IN JAPAN, IT'S REASONABE TO DRAW THE CONCLUSION THAT I OWN THE ONES IN JAPAN?

And how did you own the ones in Japan? Did you purchase them from the owner there?

THAT'S A GOOD QUESTION. I DON'T KNOW THE ANSWER.

Well, I don't either. It's not impractical that happened. People buy rhinos at one zoo. Keep it there for years, until their facility is ready to house a 3rd or 4th rhino and then bring it to their facility. People own animals at other facilities all the time.

ISN'T IT POSSIBLE THAT THE ANIMALS WERE BASICALLY STORED IN JAPAN, FOR A RAINY DAY, BY SOMEBODY REPRESENTING SEA WORLD USA?

I have no idea.

IS IT REASONABLE, OR LOGICAL?

Again, I have no idea. Why would somebody store animals for a rainy day? You move animals from institution to institution to serve the breeding programs, the gene pool compatibility issues. That's what I do. I don't store animals in somebody else's facility for a rainy day--and the implication, I resent.

IN THE EVENT THAT YOU COULDN'T GET A PERMIT, OR YOUR PREDECESSORS COULDN'T GET A PERMIT, WOULD IT BE A FEASIBLE PROPOSITION TO PARK A MARINE MAMMAL SOMEWHERE ELSE IN THE WORLD FOR A TIME WHEN YOU COULD GET THE PERMIT TO MOVE THAT ANIMAL TO THE UNITED STATES? WOULD THAT BE A REASONABLE OR A LEGITIMATE PRACTICE?

I think that's some--sort of stretching for storing. But we don't do that.

AND NEVER DID?

Jim and I are responsible people that work for Sea World. When we came to work for Sea World --we don't do anything like you're suggesting, and if you want to imply that it happened, or that it happened because of hearsay or someone else saying it--

I ASKED ABOUT THE DRIVE FISH--BEFORE-- WHAT IS THE POLICY OF SEAWORLD TODAY IN TERMS OF ANIMALS ACQUIRED FROM THAT FISHERY? DO YOU HAVE A POLICY?

We have no plan to collect animals or save animals lives from a drive fishery

WHAT IS THE POLICY ON ACCEPTING OR COLLECTING ANIMALS FROM THE JAPANESE DRIVE FISHERY NOW?

Right now we don't have any plans to collect any animals from the Japanese drive fishery, and part of that is--it's complicated right now too, because the Japanese are beginning to talk about small whaling again--which is going beyond the realm of the International Whaling Commission's scientific whaling. And they're complicating the issues with all of their programs. And again, going back to the original issue, I think saving the animal's more important, and not interfering with what happens in other parts of the world.

I THINK THERE WAS A COURT DECISION IN THE UNITED STATES THAT RECOGNIZED THAT IPSO FACTO, THE JAPANESE DRIVE FISHERY IS INHUMANE, AND THEREFORE ANY COLLECTION THROUGH THE DRIVE FISHERY WOULD PUT YOU OUTSIDE OF THE LIMITS OF THE MARINE MAMMALS ACT.....

I'm not aware of any lawsuit or court ruling. I do know that one of the conditions of an import from the National Fisheries Service would be that the animals were collected in a humane manner.

IS THAT NOT A CONTRADICTION IN TERMS, WHEN YOU'RE TALKING ABOUT THE JAPANESE DRIVE FISHERY? HOW COULD YOU CALL THAT HUMANE IN ANY WAY?

Well, it's not humane, because theyíre going to kill them and eat them. But to save them is humane. We used the same technique in Barnes Lake, Alaska, two years old, and saved nine killer whales that had been trapped in a fresh water lake. We used the same technique--We were called--again, why didn't somebody else?-- get called? We got called. We went up there and used the same type of techniques, with boats and pipes over the side, driving the animals towards an opening to save their lives. And it's unfortunate--of those nine, two didn't make it because they'd been in that fresh water lake for too long--they died.

I don't have any answer for you in terms of the Japanese, and if what they're doing is right or long. I'm not going to judge them. There's people all over the world right now, that are eating endangered --for delicacies, and catching small (unclear) and eating them. And the River dolphins in Amazon--their genitals are being used for aphrodisiacs. I mean, there's things that go on outside the realm of what we feel is acceptable here, in the United States.

IT'S A LAW OF THE UNITED STATES THAT THERE HAS TO BE A HUMANE COLLECTION, NO MATTER WHETHER IT'S IN ICELANDIC--

That's right.

OR JAPAN, OR WHEREVER?

And that's part of the condition for an import permit--if they don't give a permit, then you're not going to import the animal.

AND--HOW DO YOU PERMIT--I MEAN THE JAPANESE DRIVE FISHERY--BY ANYBODY' S--GRANTED KILLING THEM IS INHUMANE, BUT DRIVING UP INTO A POSITION WHERE THEY CAN BE CAPTURED IS ALSO--INHUMANE.

It's a definition of how you collect an animal, and what your purpose is going to be, and if you' ve ever seen those processes, you would know the differences. You know, we're getting into the discussion now of a slaughterhouse, and how humane it is to drive the cows through the chute before their last step. I mean, what's humane and what's not? You--expect the food to show up all packaged in the supermarket the next day. So we're going into, sort of, again, a resource issue here on what's right in one country is not right in another. I don't know today, if we applied for a permit--which we're not going to--if the U.S. government would accept the humaneness or non-humaneness of that collection process, or not. Because I'm not sure what court case you're talking about.

SOMEBODY WHO USED TO WORK HERE SAID THAT MARINE MAMMALS ARE WORTH A MILLION DOLLARS A DAY IN FOOD AND BEVERAGE? ARE THEY REALLY THAT BIG?

I have no idea. No idea. Jim and I take care of the animals. We're responsible for animal programs. We're not a bookkeeper in the back room who is looking at what one animal brings to the bottom line in food and beverage. You can make up any little fact and figure what you want and just banter around--oh, what about all the 250 penguins in the (unclear) counter--well, do they bring in $50,000 each in food and beverage every day? Or, how about the stuffed penguin that was bought, because the kids like it so much, because they got an affinity for penguins? I mean, that's sort of one of those, you know--let's pull it out of the air, use it and fling it around. It's a useless figure.

IT'S A BIG NUMBER. THE RELEVANCE IS THAT IT DOES PUT A LOT OF MONEY INTO RESEARCH AND BENEFICIAL PROGRAMS.

Absolutely.

AND I SUPPOSE THE QUALITY OF THAT--RELATES TO THE AMOUNT OF MONEY YOU HAVE COMING IN FROM THE VERY ANIMALS IN THE--?

Again, you have to look at a viable business. Again, I'm going to reiterate what I said earlier. There's nothing wrong with a business, to survive, and a business must survive by making money. If you--to reinvest that money in that business to survive year after year after year, no matter what business you have, if you reinvest in it properly for the future, that business is going to thrive. That's why our governments, right now, are bankrupt. They're not good businesses.

You have to stop and think about the capital that you put into habitat for the animals, the yearly operation of running the water systems, buying the food, veterinary care, the research, the conservation, the stranded animals--it's enormous. It's millions and millions and millions of dollars. Again, I'm not a creative accountant, so I'm not going to just throw out a percentage, when you stop and realize how many dollar amounts have been put into the Sea World parks in the last seven years alone, it's upwards of 200 million dollars, in terms of hard mortar and bricks, life supports systems for animals that we use to educate the folks and to learn about the animals and to help researchers in the wild fill out that big, big puzzle out there.

It seems to me that this is really, in a way, sort of a distraction. Money is really not the issue here. The thing that Sea World does--contributes immensely to conservation through its effect on people's thinking. That's what conservation has to be--it's rooted in every resident, every citizen of the country. Conservation doesn' t happen because one individual chooses to give a percent of their income to something. That's not how conservation happens. It's got to be a group effort, and if the public doesn't receive the sensitivity, the education, the concern, then how is conservation going to happen? That's where I see the significant value of places like Sea World or zoos--is how it can affect public thinking.

And that has a money value to it because you can't measure that. You can't say, by the way, how much did you spend last year after you learned in our facilities, you now. But when you do, when you look at the Roper Poll, that says that 92% of the American public feels that facilities like Sea World are very important. That tells you something so that something is happening out there.

HOW MUCH ARE YOU AFFECTED BY THE ANIMAL LIBERATION MOVEMENT?

The effect is, I think, minimal. I think they have, you know, an impact because they have a way to attract media points, or throughout the types of figures that they they get things theyíre excited about. I think one of the things that, different, some of the responsible mid-line conservation groups, like Greenpeace, and Green Conservation Center, are looking at the larger picture issues, and--look at eco-systems and bio-diversity, and some of the bigger things that we've been talking about. I think when you look at the smaller percentage, and it is a minority issue, they're vocal, loud, and they're entitled to their opinion. And that's it.




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