Blackfish: How Accurate is it?

The analyzation and fact check of the documentary Blackfish

What was Blackfish

Blackfish was a documentary directed by Gabriella Cowperthwaite about SeaWorld and their captive sea animals, specifically Orcas. The documentary seeks to alleviate all animals of their "jail cells" but mainly focuses on orcas and their captivity and uses Tilikum, a killer whale, as an example. It tells the story of Dawn Brancheau, a very experienced and expert orca trainer, and how she was killed by Tilikum during a show. During the documentary, it also brings in events about other trainers who have been killed and brings in previous trainers to talk about their experience to show orcas should not be held in captivity and any animal either.

Why was Blackfish Created

Blackfish targets those who are uninformed or have a wrong conception about Sea World and wants to reveal to the audience the true evil nature of SeaWorld and to advocate the idea that orcas should not be captivated. The documentary hopes to free the orcas in Sea World or at least gain support of the cause, because they believed that the orcas should not be held in captivity.

How Blackfish Accomplished its Goals aka Rhetorical Strategies

The Misinformation, Omitted Information, and Lies Presented in the Film

Never speaks about the positives of Sea World

  • Sea World is one the leading institutions in the research of sea animals which is a major positive for scientist and future scientific research advancements

  • Although they captivate animals they also take in many injured animals rehabilitate them and release them to the wild.

  • Much of the revenue it generates is given to charity and works toward promoting the livelihood of animals

  • Sea World helps protect and conserve endangered animals

Lies presented in the film

  • Makes Seaworld seem careless and unsafe, when in reality it has many safety precautions for trainers

  • Makes the animals look as they they have nowhere to swim, but Seaworld is constantly improving the living quarters of the animals.


  • Blackfish claims Seaworld lies to make orcas seem like nice creatures, but then Blackfish does the exact same thing trying to make orcas look nice while in nature but mean in captivity. The documentary manipulates the audience by making Sea World look like they lie but the documentary also lies but has a good "cause" unlike Sea World.


    • “What we’ve learned is that they’re amazingly friendly and understanding and intuitively want to be your companion, and to this day there’s no record of any orca doing any harm to a human in the wild”

      • While Orcas are friendly and do not attack humans, this statement is false considering there are events in which humans have been injured from wild orcas. In one such case an orca took hold of a diver's arm and drug him underwater similarly to other deaths related to orcas and trainers. In addition, it has been seen where whales, even orcas, have jumped and landed on boats just like what happened in Sea World when an orca landed on a trainer.

    • “You’ve got animals from different cultural subsets that have been brought in from various parks. These are different nations. These aren’t just two different killer whales. These animals–they got different genes. They’ve got different languages.”

      • Blackfish claims orcas are very diverse and are uniquely different but “ genetic studies to date have found extremely low levels of diversity in the mitochondrial control region, and few clear phylogeographic patterns worldwide” which means orcas are not all that different.

    • “This is a multi-billion dollar corporation that makes its money through the exploitation of Orcas”

      • Sea World makes much more revenue from other products and this quote makes it seem like Seaworld is harsh when they also work to rehabilitate animals. This statement makes it seem like Sea World treats their animals harsh and forces them to perform to make many, when in reality no animals are harmed or forced to participate and Sea World has many other sources of revenue.

    • Blackfish said that Floppy dorsal fins were rare in the wild but they are actually not as rare. In addition, since the dorsal fin is involved in the reproduction process then Seaworld would not have used Tilikum which rebukes the claim that Tilikum is only kept for reproductive purposes.

    • Aggression as a gene, in the documentary it was claimed that Tilikum as an animal with aggressive tenancies and should not have been used since all o its offspring will now have aggressive tendencies. This statement is not accurate nor is it inaccurate, there has not been enough studies to claim whether or not aggression is a gene found within orcas. As a result, Blackfish should not have made this claim since it makes all orcas in Sea World appear aggressive although this may not be true.

    The REASON WHY these “lies” exist

    What Were These Lies Meant to do

    • These lies exist to make Seaworld look bad

    • They want to make the watcher feel bad for the animals and mad towards Sea World for what they do to the animals

    • Pressure Seaworld into releasing animals

    • Create negative stigma around captivating animals

    Sea Worlds Response

    "Blackfish is billed as a documentary, but instead of a fair and balanced treatment of complex subject, the film is inaccurate and misleading and, regrettably, exploits a tragedy that remains a source of deep pain for Dawn Brancheau's family, friends and colleagues. To promote its bias that killer whales should not be maintained in a zoological setting, the film paints a distorted picture that withholds from viewers key facts about SeaWorld -- among them, that SeaWorld is one of the world's most respected zoological institutions, that SeaWorld rescues, rehabilitates and returns to the wild hundreds of wild animals every year, and that SeaWorld commits millions of dollars annually to conservation and scientific research. Perhaps most important, the film fails to mention SeaWorld's commitment to the safety of its team members and guests and to the care and welfare of its animals, as demonstrated by the company's continual refinement and improvement to its killer whale facilities, equipment and procedures both before and after the death of Dawn Brancheau."

    Overall Effect

    The film uses its manipulations and rhetorical strategies to make Sea World look bad and further makes them look negative by claiming they refused to be interviewed. The film was filled with a lot of misinformation that made Sea World look like they are careless, when in reality there are many rules implemented and new improvements towards their facilities that improve the safety of the trainers and lives of the orcas. The film does gain a large following and it was eventually ruled in the court case with Sea World that they can no longer have trainers in the water with orcas due to them being dangerous and unpredictable.

    Works Cited

    Environmental Communication. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 May 2017.

    "False Killer Whale Dorsal Fin Disfigurements as a Possible Indicator of Long-Line Fishery Interactions in Hawaiian Waters." BioOne. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 May 2017.

    Kirby, David. "Did a Wild Orca Really Attack a Diver in New Zealand?" TakePart. N.p., 24 Feb. 2014. Web. 22 May 2017.

    Morin128, Phillip A., Frederick I. Archer1, Andrew D. Foote34, Julia Vilstrup3, Eric E. Allen2, Paul Wade5, John Durban5, Kim Parsons5, Robert Pitman1, Lewyn Li6, Pascal Bouffard6, Sandra C. Abel Nielsen3, Morten Rasmussen3, Eske Willerslev3, and M. Thomas P. Gilbert3 And. "Phillip A. Morin." Genome Research. Cold Spring Harbor Lab, 01 Jan. 1970. Web. 22 May 2017.

    "Quotes." IMDb., n.d. Web. 22 May 2017.

    Rileyswilson. "7 Quotes From ‘Black Fish’ That Speak To More Than Whale Captivity & Torture." RILEYSWILSON. N.p., 16 Jan. 2014. Web. 22 May 2017.

    "SeaWorld responds to questions about captive orcas, 'Blackfish' film." CNN. Cable News Network, 28 Oct. 2013. Web. 22 May 2017.