inside seaworld

letter from nmfs to seaworld

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Silver Spring, Maryland 20910

Mr. Brad Andrews
Vice President
Zoological Operations
Sea World, Inc.
7007 Sea World Drive
Orlando, Florida 32821-8097

Dear Mr. Andrews:

Thank you for your letter requesting authorization to import and temporarily house an adult male killer whale (Orcinus orca) presently being held at Sealand of the Pacific Ltd. in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. We are also in receipt of a supporting statement from the Government of Canada and a copy of the supporting request from Sealand of the Pacific Ltd. for placement of the animal at your facility since it cannot be adequately cared for in Canada.

It is our understanding that , based on medical tests of the killer whales held at Sealand of the Pacific Ltd. in anticipation of Sea World's permit application, both Sea Land and and [sic] Sea World had at least two months advance knowledge of the imminent birth of at least one, and possibly two, killer whale calves. Sealand is responsible for these animals and should have taken steps to ensure that arrangements were made to hold the adult male killer whale, "Tillikum," at or nearby the Sealand facility or at another facility in Canada following such births. Sea World presumably has a significant interest in the well-being of these animals as well, and in the capacity of advising Sealand on their care, should have taken such steps even if Sealand had elected not to do so. Such temporary holding arrangements, whether they involved construction of temporary pens or other enclosures, should have been possible, at least for the few months necessary to consider and decide upon the permit application pending from Sea World for the import of these killer whales for public display. In this manner, the present need for an emergency permit authorization could have been prevented. However, such reasonable and prudent precautionary steps necessary for the health and welfare of Tillikum were not taken by Sealand or Sea World.

Under these circumstances, NMFS arranged independent verification of the facts and circumstances outlined in your request. We appreciate your and Sealand's cooperation in this regard. As a result of this verification, NMFS has concluded that the best interests of all the killer whales concerned, particularly that of Tillikum, the newborn calf, and the calf expected to be born in the next few months, including present and anticipated future medical treatment otherwise unavailable in Canada, would be best served if an emergency authorization is granted for Tillikum's importation.

Enclosed are two signed originals of the Cooperative Agreement No. 1Q issued pursuant to 16 U.S.C. 1379(h) and 16 U.S.C. 1382(c) between the National Marine Fisheries Service and Sea World, Inc. Please sign both originals of the agreement and return one to the Assistant Administrator for Fisheries, National Marine Fisheries Service, U.S. Department of Commerce., 1335 East-West Highway, SSMC1, Room 7324, Silver Spring, Maryland, 20910. The U.S Department of Agriculture's regulations and standards, "Specifications for the Humane Handling, Care, Treatment, and Transportation of Marine Mammals," have been incorporated as conditions of this agreement. When Tillikum is received at your Sea World of Florida facility, please update your inventory by completing and returning the enclosed inventory form.

This agreement authorizes Sea World, Inc. to import one male killer whale, "Tillikum," for the purpose of providing medical treatment and care that is otherwise unavailable in Canada at this time. This authorization is effective until such time as a permit is issued in response to the application by Sea World, Inc. for the import of Tillikum for public display. Please note special condition 2 of the agreement. If a public display permit involving this animal is denied, under the terms of this agreement Sea World, Inc., is assuming the responsibility, including any associated costs, for the return of Tillikum to Canada and placement at a suitable facility to be identified by NMFS and the Canadian government, or, if no Canadian facility is available, for the return and release of Tillikum at the original location of capture. Additionally, special condition 3 of the agreement requires that, until a public display permit is issued, Tillikum may not be placed on public display. Special condition 4 makes clear that this agreement may be revoked at any time at the discretion of NMFS.

If similar circumstances should arise in the future, while the health and welfare of marine mammals will continue to be of paramount concern to NMFS , lack of action necessary to ensure marine mammal health and welfare in the face of available information will not constitute sufficient grounds for issuance of an emergency import authorization. If you have any questions concerning the enclosed Agreement or its reporting requirement, please contact the Permits Division, Office of Protected Resources (301/713-2289).

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