SeaWorld Orlando has been ordered by the federal government to pay a fine of $38,500 for a “repeat violation” of an Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) order regarding safety of the staff who are in close contact with the nonhuman animals.
According to OSHA, SeaWorld has been ignoring a federal court order and continues to operate a workplace that can “cause death or serious physical harm to employees.”
Last year, at the end of a court battle between the government and SeaWorld, Judge Ken Welsch ruled that SeaWorld was guilty of “serious” negligence in its treatment of employees. He leveled a $12,000 fine and ordered that trainers be separated from killer whales by a physical barrier if the two are near each other in the water.
Now, as a result of a follow-up inspection last December, OSHA has issued a further fine. SeaWorld has responded saying that:
OSHA’s enforcement activities and the new citation demonstrate the agency’s continued and fundamental misunderstanding of how to properly and safely care for and work around these animals.
That’s a bit rich, coming in the wake of the killing of top trainer Dawn Brancheau two years ago, and the numerous other deaths and injuries at SeaWorld circuses and other facilities that are related to SeaWorld.
OSHA’s concerns are limited to the safety of humans at these facilities. The care and treatment of the nonhuman animals is a whole other story. Even so, however, it’s worth noting that the judge referred to the behavior of orcas in captivity compared to orcas in the wild when he wrote that there are no known cases of killer whales in the wild ever harming a human:
They live in long-term social groups, called pods. Killer whales are highly intelligent and their social system is organized in a complex female-dominant hierarchy. Killer whales are “apex predators,” at the top of the food chain … [They] are not known to prey on humans in the wild.