Reason 61

A whale comes out onto stage while Ventre is talking into the microphone. This segment is highly misleading because it is placed in the Film immediately before Jett states that he had been expecting somebody to be killed by Tilikum (1:06:26). Therefore, the whale coming on stage is depicted as a dangerous moment/act of aggression imperilling the trainer (Ventre).

SeaWorld cannot use this as a reason to criticise Blackfish without being highly hypocritical. The filmmaker uses this sequence in exactly the same way it is used by SeaWorld to make the audience feel it is an unscripted, menacing moment.

Determination: Hypocritical

Reason 62

Berg Interview re Brancheau incident Ms. Berg last worked at SeaWorld in 1993, seventeen years before the incident with Dawn Brancheau. Ms. Berg never worked with Tilikum and only worked with killer whales for a very brief period. Ms. Berg has no personal knowledge regarding the incident.

Dawn Brancheau working with a killer whale

The fact that Berg has not worked at SeaWorld since 1993 is completely irrelevant to what she says in this part of Blackfish. She did not need to work at SeaWorld or have any personal knowledge regarding the incident to say what she said. She described what happened during an earlier performance and she described the details of the Dine with Shamu performance. Both of these performances are on video for anyone to review or give their own opinion on. This reason isn’t valid.

Determination: Invalid / Debunked

Quote 1: “There were whales chasing each other, and eventually, the trainers decided they had to stop the show, because they couldn’t get the whales under control.”

Quote 2: “Likely she saw what had gone on during the main show and so she had probably felt more pressure to do a good show. 
When you watch the whole video, you can see that Tilikum is actually really with Dawn in the beginning of the video. There’s a couple of behaviours that she asks him to do, where Tilikum just jumps right in, and he does exactly what she asks him to do. 

Quote 3: “She asked him to do a perimeter pec wave, where she asked him to basically go all the way around the pool and wave his pectoral flipper, and she blows her whistle, which is a bridge, which tells the animal that, OK, you’ve done a good job. Come back and get food. But he missed that cue. And he went all the way around the pool on this perimeter pec wave.”

Quote 4: “So not only did he not hear the bridge, then he went and did a perfect behavior and came back and what he got was what we call three-second neutral response, which is just a way to let the animal know, no you didn’t do the correct thing. You’re not going to get rewarded, and then we’re going to move on. And you can also see through the video that Dawn is running out of food.”

Quote 5: “When you see the difference between the beginning of the video and the end of the video, you can see he’s just not quite on his game anymore.”

Reason 63

Ventre Interview re Brancheau incident: Mr. Ventre last worked at SeaWorld in 1995, fifteen years before the incident with Dawn Brancheau. Mr. Ventre has no personal knowledge regarding the incident. Although Mr. Ventre purports to critique the incident, Mr.Ventre had at most, three years’ experience working with killer whales at a very junior level, and never in the role of trainer-in-charge of any encounter. By comparison, Dawn Brancheau, whom Ventre purports to critique, had 16 years’ experience, was one of SeaWorld’s most senior and experienced trainers, attained the title of Supervisor of Animal Training, and was the senior trainer on Tilikum’s team.

The exact same explanation for Berg applies to Ventre. The fact that he stopped working at SeaWorld in 1995/ Ventre has no personal knowledge regarding the incident does not discredit what he says in Blackfish. He also describes the details the performance, which anyone watching the video could do.

Ventre did not criticise Brancheau. He describes the details of the video. Not once does he criticise Brancheau, claiming otherwise is another blatant lie.

Determination: Invalid / Debunked & Lie

Quote 1: “Tilikum was in the back pool, set up to do a Dine with Shamu performance with Dawn.”

Quote 2: “There seemed to be a point in the session where things went south, so to speak, and in my humble opinion, it was at that missed bridge, whistle bridge on the perimeter pec wave..” 

Quote 3: “My interpretation is that he didn’t hear the whistle.”

Quote 4: “The animals can sense when you’re getting to the bottom of your bucket of fish, because they can hear the ice clanging around and the kind of fishy soupy water at the bottom, and the handfuls of fish that they’re getting delivered by the trainer are all getting smaller. So, they know that they’re coming down to the end of session”

Quote 5: “Then she walked around the perimeter of G-pool. He followed her. And then continued over into the rocky ledge area, where she laid down with him to do a relationship session, which is quiet time basically” 

Reason 64

Jett: “There is no food left . . .she kept asking him to perform more behaviors . . . he was not getting reinforced for the behaviours that he was doing correctly; he probably was frustrated toward the end” . . . Cast members purport to criticize Dawn Brancheau for her handling of Tilikum.

Jett sums up the details of which the other former trainers had discussed. The detail that it was coming towards the end of session (thus there was not a lot of food left) was explained, the reason why she was asking Tilikum for more and more behaviours was explained, and why he was not getting reinforced (due to his own error) was explained. Jett concludes, he does not criticise. Not a single one of the cast members “purport to criticize” Brancheau, they actually speak very highly of her at the beginning of the film.

Determination: Invalid / Debunked

Quote 1: “There’s no food left. She kept asking him for more and more behaviours. He wasn’t getting reinforced for the behaviours that he was doing correctly. He probably was frustrated towards the end.”

Quote 2: “Tilikum at some point grabbed ahold of her left forearm and started to drag her and eventually did a barrel roll and pulled her in. May have started as play or frustration, and clearly escalated to be very violent behaviour that I think was anything but play. In the end, you know, he basically just completely mutilated that poor girl.”

Reason 65

Jett: “Tilikum at some point grabbed a hold of her left forearm and started to drag her and eventually did a barrel roll and pulled her in.” This is false…

Dawn Brancheau and Tilikum. The pair were in a very similar position just moments before the fatal attack on February 24th, 2010.

There is no conclusive proof establishing how Dawn Brancheau was pulled into the pool, which makes it a matter of subjective debate. It’s down to each individual to determine their opinion based on the evidence, not for SeaWorld to determine who’s right and who’s wrong.

Determination: Invalid / Debunked

Reason 66

Berg: “At first Sea World reported that a trainer slipped and fell into the water and was drowned. So, that was the first report.” … This is false… it was the Orange County Sheriff, not SeaWorld, that reported this.

The Orange County Sheriff acted as SeaWorld’s mouth piece. SeaWorld representatives were standing with the Sheriff’s Office spokesman when he stated that the trainer slipped and fell in. The representatives did not correct or contradict him. The Sheriff would have only reported this version of events based on what he had been told only moments earlier by those same representatives. Berg’s statement is not false.

Determination: Invalid / Debunked

Reason 67

Jett: “It wasn’t until eye witness accounts disputed that, that they had to go back into their huddle and said wait a minute, we’ve got to come up with a new plan. . . The new plan is that he grabbed her ponytail. This is a subtle way of placing the blame on Dawn’s shoulders.”

Jett is not wrong to claim this and SeaWorld inadvertently proves it in their explanation. SeaWorld claims “spotter Jan Topoleski testified under oath at the OSHA hearing that Ms. Brancheau was pulled into the water by her ponytail…  Mr. Topoleski provided the identical report – that Tilikum had Ms. Brancheau by the hair – to the Orange County Sheriff’s office only minutes after the incident.” In this quote SeaWorld admits they were aware of the claim that Brancheau was pulled into the water by her hair just minutes after the incident, yet still initially reported to the Orange County Sheriff’s Office spokesman that she slipped and fell into the pool. They only acknowledged the pony tail theory after their first announcement backfired. This proves what Jett said is accurate.

Determination: Invalid / Debunked

Reason 68

Marino: “All whales in captivity have a bad life. They’re all emotionally destroyed. They’re all psychologically traumatized. So, they are ticking time bombs. It’s not just Tilikum.” The Film portrays Marino’s statement as if it is the opinion of the scientific community, and as such is false and misleading. 

Ulises, a male orca at SeaWorld San Diego.

The film does not portray Marino’s statement as if it’s the opinion of the scientific community at all. It portrays it as her opinion. 68 reasons in and the pettiness just keeps amplifying…

Determination: Invalid / Debunked

Reason 69

Scrolling Statement: “SeaWorld repeatedly declined to be interviewed for this film.”

There’s nothing misleading or inaccurate about this statement. With a long-winded explanation, SeaWorld confirmed they “chose not to participate in the film.”

Determination: Invalid / Debunked

Link 1: SeaWorld’s 69 Reason’s You Shouldn’t Believe Blackfish