Thursday, June 14, 2012

Superpod II Gathering this July in Pacific Northwest


For the second time in just over one year a diverse collection of killer whale experts & former trainers will congregate and share information regarding orca populations, including wild and captive animals.  Superpod (SP) events are held during July in conjunction with the Southern Resident orcas which are swimming around San Juan Island chasing Chinook salmon. The combination of J, K, and L pods together is called a "superpod." Here's what one looks like: 

One planned discussion for SP II is regarding the development of coastal sanctuaries (aka "sea pens") that could allow for animals, such as Lolita or Tilikum, to spend their final years of life in a more natural setting. Sea pens could also be used as rehab centers if an orca, like Morgan, was found alone or beached, and needed a home to recover. This would offer a weakened animal exposure to the natural rhythms of the sea, as well as veterinary care.  

These meetings are public and held at locations, such as "The Grange," in Friday Harbor, on San Juan Island. A primary organizer of Superpod II is journalist Candace Calloway Whiting, who is a frequent writer/contributor to Seattle P.I. dot com and also a volunteer for the prestigious Center for Whale Research, which is based on the Western edge of the island, over-looking the Haro Strait, at Canada. 


Since the tragic death of Dawn Brancheau at Orlando's SeaWorld park in February 2010, former marine mammal trainers have stepped out of the shadows and combined their voices with scientists, journalists, and anti-captivity groups. Great websites such as The Orca Project, Blue Freedom, and more, have cropped up. Exclusive interviews of former trainers Carol Ray, Samantha Berg, and John Jett PhD, all published at TOP, are now available for the public to consume. These are some of the ex-trainers that will be attending SP II. 

Young activist Ella Van Cleave has recently done a "Ted Talks," and Ella plans to be at Superpod II. She, along with other young heroes like Gwen Williams, in Australia, Katie Emmons, in Vermont, and Jaime Coulson, in Wisconsin, have made a difference in the captivity debate, especially via Tumblr, YouTube, and blogs. Meet all four of them on our HOPE page, which has links to their websites. Here's Ella doing her thing in Victoria.

Thanks to technologies such as smart phones, Google Groups, blogs, and the internet, the anti-captivity movement has become more organized. Follow us on Twitter @Voice_OT_Orcas and download materials, such as papers, images, and links, from our primary website, Voice of the Orcas. 

These coordinated efforts, from you and us using technology, have accelerated the shifting of public opinion away from the brutal captivity of whales in concrete enclosures. Superpod II is a face to face gathering of 3-4 dozen experts/enthusiasts to cross-pollinate in a five-day event that will have plenty of educational components, movies, great Northwest food (including craft beverages), and also daily whale watch excursions, including via sea kayak. Most of the ocean events will be routed through the Snug Harbor Marina and Resort

Three top scientists that will be in attendance are Ken Balcomb, director of the Center for Whale Research, Dr Ingrid Visser, lead scientist and founder of the Orca Research Trust, in New Zealand, and Dr Naomi Rose, senior scientist for Human Society International (HSI). Naomi oversees HSI campaigns to protect wild and captive marine mammals and is a member of the International Whaling Commission’s Scientific Committee. Dr. Rose is also the lead protagonist in David Kirby's much anticipated scientific thriller called Death at SeaWorld. David can be followed on Twitter @DeathAtSeaWorld and on Facebook HERE

Click here to order and look inside of the book  Death at SeaWorld. 

David has his own book event, sponsored by his publisher, St. Martin's Press, planned at Superpod II, and this will be held Saturday 21 July 2012 from 5-7 PM. It includes a  presentation, book signings (several of the characters in his book will be there) and panel discussion with Naomi Rose and 3 former SeaWorld orca trainers Carol Ray, Jeffrey Ventre & Samantha Berg. Death at SeaWorld may have been catalyzed by the death of Dawn Brancheau, but Dawn's story is only one  small part of the book, which opens with the shocking and eerily similar killing of trainer Keltie Byrne in 1991. Back in those pre-internet days,  it was easier for companies like SeaLand of the Pacific, where Keltie was killed, and SeaWorld, to cover up facts and relevant points of information. By all accounts, this book is sure to ruffle "fins and feathers." Get some of  the pre-release buzz here

Marc Bekoff, Ph.D, of the University of Colorado, author of The Emotional Lives of Animals and The Animal Manifesto: Six Reasons For Expanding Our Compassion Footprint, had this to say after reading an advanced copy of the book:

Death at SeaWorld is one of the most important books, if not the most important book, ever written on the horrific plight of captive cetaceans. Focusing on killer whales, the well-known black-and-white icons of life in the sea, David Kirby systematically dismantles every single argument used to justify keeping these incredibly intelligent and sentient beings in the aquatic cages in which they're jammed solely for profit at the expense of their very lives and those of other animals including humans. If you ever questioned whether or not places like SeaWorld should exist, I trust you will now answer with a resounding ‘NO!’”

In other SP II news, attorney Steve Wise will be doing a public talk regarding the Nonhuman Rights Project. The "NHRP" is devoted to gaining rights for animals, such as Lolita, who have no voice, and who's mother is known to be swimming around San Juan Island right now, as this is being written. Here's more about the NHRP from their website:  

Why We Work Through the Common Law

The Nonhuman Rights Project argues that some nonhuman animals should have the capacity to possess common law rights. What is the common law and why do we take that approach as opposed to using federal laws, which only provide for minimal protection of certain animals? The common law is what English-speaking judges around the world have been making for a thousand years in the process of deciding cases that turn on general legal principles, when they’re not interpreting statutes or constitutions, regulations or treaties. American federal courts don’t use the common law. Neither does the state of Louisiana, with its French civil law heritage, and Puerto Rico, which relies on Spanish civil law. But the other 49 American states and the District of Columbia all use common law.

WA State Ferry Delivering People and Cars to Friday Harbor on San Juan Island. Home of Superpod II

If you are interested in attending the public events associated with Superpod II gathering, you'll have to come to San Juan Island, Washington. Most folks make their way up from Seattle either via Washington State Ferry out of Anacortes, or from downtown via the Victoria Clipper Line.  Those that can't make the trip, stay tuned.  We hope to have at least one live "call in" Twitter event during David Kirby's book signing, which will be July 21, from 5-7 pm Pacific Daylight Savings Time.  Remember that DK can be found @DeathAtSeaWorld and we @Voice_OT_Orcas.  Please share this knowledge and comment if you have any questions. Our understanding is that two documentary film crews will be on island capturing parts of Superpod II. So look for at least one film in 2013... 


  1. Are there any specifics yet on the events that are happening on SJI? I live here and want to make sure I don't miss anything! cheers! Looking forward to this!!

  2. Hi Traci. Thanks for the Gr8 question. The main public events begin at 10:00 a.m. on Sat 21 July 2012. They include expert talks on animal (legal) rights, a movie screening and a book signing party with author David Kirby of Death at SeaWorld. Here's the link:

  3. One of my favorite websites, and the three interviews are fantastic!

    Perhaps it would be worthwhile inviting some of the folks at Lonely Planet to Superpod III next year. Type "lonely planet seaworld orca" into Google and have a look at the disturbing publicity the World's most popular guidebook is making for Seaworld. Here is just one example: