We have compiled a list of recommended reading in regards to cetaceans, captivity, and the ocean. You can find these materials through your local library, used book stores and online options, local small-businesses, etc.
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Death at SeaWorld by David Kirby
Synopsis: Death at SeaWorld centers on the battle with the multimillion-dollar marine park industry over the controversial and even lethal ramifications of keeping killer whales in captivity. Following the story of marine biologist and animal advocate at the Humane Society of the US, Naomi Rose, Kirby tells the gripping story of the two-decade fight against PR-savvy SeaWorld, which came to a head with the tragic death of trainer Dawn Brancheau in 2010. Kirby puts that horrific animal-on-human attack in context. Brancheau's death was the most publicized among several brutal attacks that have occurred at Sea World and other marine mammal theme parks.
Death at SeaWorld introduces real people taking part in this debate, from former trainers turned animal rights activists to the men and women that champion SeaWorld and the captivity of whales. In section two the orcas act out. And as the story progresses and orca attacks on trainers become increasingly violent, the warnings of Naomi Rose and other scientists fall on deaf ears, only to be realized with the death of Dawn Brancheau. Finally he covers the media backlash, the eyewitnesses who come forward to challenge SeaWorld's glossy image, and the groundbreaking OSHA case that challenges the very idea of keeping killer whales in captivity and may spell the end of having trainers in the water with the ocean's top predators.
Beneath the Surface: Killer Whales, SeaWorld, and the Truth Beyond Blackfish by John Hargrove
Synopsis: Over the course of two decades, John Hargrove worked with 20 different whales on two continents and at two of SeaWorld's U.S. facilities. For Hargrove, becoming an orca trainer fulfilled a childhood dream. However, as his experience with the whales deepened, Hargrove came to doubt that their needs could ever be met in captivity. When two fellow trainers were killed by orcas in marine parks, Hargrove decided that SeaWorld's wildly popular programs were both detrimental to the whales and ultimately unsafe for trainers.
After leaving SeaWorld, Hargrove became one of the stars of the controversial documentary Blackfish. The outcry over the treatment of SeaWorld's orca has now expanded beyond the outlines sketched by the award-winning documentary, with Hargrove contributing his expertise to an advocacy movement that is convincing both federal and state governments to act.
In Beneath the Surface, Hargrove paints a compelling portrait of these highly intelligent and social creatures, including his favorite whales Takara and her mother Kasatka, two of the most dominant orcas in SeaWorld. And he includes vibrant descriptions of the lives of orcas in the wild, contrasting their freedom in the ocean with their lives in SeaWorld.
Hargrove's journey is one that humanity has just begun to take-toward the realization that the relationship between the human and animal worlds must be radically rethought.
Behind the Dolphins Smile by Richard O’Barry with Keith Coulbourn
Synopsis: Behind the Dolphin Smile is the heart-felt true story of an animal lover who dedicated his life to studying and training dolphins, but in the process discovered that he ultimately needed to set them free. Ric O’Barry shares his journey with dolphins and other sea mammals in this captivating autobiographical look back at his years as a dolphin trainer for aquatic theme parks, movies, and television. Also included is a preface relaying a first-hand account of his adventures filming the 2010 Academy Award–winning documentary The Cove, which covertly uncovered Japan’s inhumane dolphin-hunting practices. O’Barry, a successful animal trainer who had had everything—money, flashy cars, pretty women—came to realize that dolphins were easy to train, not because of his great talent, but because they possessed great intelligence, and that keeping them in captivity was cruel and morally wrong. O’Barry now dedicates his life to stopping the exploitation of these exceptional mammals by retraining them to return to their natural habitats.
Listening to Whales: what the Orcas Have Taught Us by Alexandra Morton
Synopsis: In Listening to Whales, Alexandra Morton shares spellbinding stories about her career in whale and dolphin research and what she has learned from and about these magnificent mammals. In the late 1970s, while working at Marineland in California, Alexandra pioneered the recording of orca sounds by dropping a hydrophone into the tank of two killer whales. She recorded the varied language of mating, childbirth, and even grief after the birth of a stillborn calf. At the same time she made the startling observation that the whales were inventing wonderful synchronized movements, a behavior that was soon recognized as a defining characteristic of orca society.
In 1984, Alexandra moved to a remote bay in British Columbia to continue her research with wild orcas. Her recordings of the whales have led her to a deeper understanding of the mystery of whale echolocation, the vocal communication that enables the mammals to find their way in the dark sea. A fascinating study of the profound communion between humans and whales, this book will open your eyes anew to the wonders of the natural world.
Of Orcas and Men: What Killer Whales Can Teach Us by David Neiwert
Synopsis: Orcas are one of earth’s most intelligent animals. Benign and gentle, with their own languages and cultures, orcas’ amazing capacity for long-term memory and, arguably, compassion, makes the ugly story of the captive-orca industry especially damning. In Of Orcas and Men, a marvelously compelling mix of cultural history, environmental reporting, and scientific research, David Neiwert explores how this extraordinary species has come to capture our imaginations—and the catastrophic environmental consequences of that appeal. In the tradition of Barry Lopez’s classic Of Wolves and Men, David Neiwert’s book is a powerful tribute to one of the animal kingdom’s most remarkable members.
Endangered Orcas: The Story of the Southern Residents by Monika Wieland Shields
Synopsis: The Southern Resident killer whales are icons of the Pacific Northwest, a beloved population of orcas that are considered the most-watched whales in the world. Despite decades of research and focused conservation efforts, they are on the brink of extinction.
Each year J-, K-, and L-Pods return to the inland waters of Washington State and British Columbia, a region known as the Salish Sea, where scientists and whale watchers alike know them as individuals. J2 Granny lost relatives to captivity but went on to lead her family for decades. The controversial satellite tagging of K25 Scoter reshaped orca conservation efforts. L112 Sooke was only three years old when she washed up dead from blunt force trauma to the head on the outer coast, a death shrouded in mystery.
From the capture era and the beginning of killer whale research to the whale-watching boom and endangered listing, the whole story of the Southern Residents is told here. Our relationship to these whales, complicated by both the positive attachments and negative politics we have created around them, has changed dramatically over the last 50 years. With more challenges on the horizon, one question looms: can we still create a sustainable future for humans and orcas in the Salish Sea?
Orca: How We Came to Know and Love the Ocean’s Greatest Predator by Jason M. Colby
Synopsis: Since the release of the documentary Blackfish in 2013, millions around the world have focused on the plight of the orca, the most profitable and controversial display animal in history. Yet, until now, no historical account has explained how we came to care about killer whales in the first place. Drawing on interviews, official records, private archives, and his own family history, Jason M. Colby tells the exhilarating and often heartbreaking story of how people came to love the ocean''s greatest predator. Historically reviled as dangerous pests, killer whales were dying by the hundreds, even thousands, by the 1950s - the victims of whalers, fishermen, and even the US military. In the Pacific Northwest, fishermen shot them, scientists harpooned them, and the Canadian government mounted a machine gun to eliminate them. But that all changed in 1965, when Seattle entrepreneur Ted Griffin became the first person to swim and perform with a captive killer whale. The show proved wildly popular, and he began capturing and selling others, including Sea World''s first Shamu. Over the following decade, live display transformed views of Orcinus orca. The public embraced killer whales as charismatic and friendly, while scientists enjoyed their first access to live orcas. In the Pacific Northwest, these captive encounters reshaped regional values and helped drive environmental activism, including Greenpeace''s anti-whaling campaigns. Yet even as Northwesterners taught the world to love whales, they came to oppose their captivity and to fight for the freedom of a marine predator that had become a regional icon. This is the definitive history of how the feared and despised "killer" became the beloved "orca" - and what that has meant for our relationship with the ocean and its creatures.
Voices in the Ocean: A Journey into the Wild and Haunting World of Dolphins by Susan Casey
Synopsis: Inspired by a profound experience swimming with wild dolphins off the coast of Maui, Susan Casey set out on a quest to learn everything she could about these creatures. Her journey takes her from a community in Hawaii known as “Dolphinville,” where the animals are seen as the key to spiritual enlightenment, to the dark side of the human-cetacean relationship at marine parks and dolphin-hunting grounds in Japan and the Solomon Islands, to the island of Crete, where the Minoan civilization lived in harmony with dolphins, providing a millennia-old example of a more enlightened coexistence with the natural world.
Along the way, Casey recounts the history of dolphin research and introduces us to the leading marine scientists and activists who have made it their life’s work to increase humans’ understanding and appreciation of the wonder of dolphins—the other intelligent life on the planet.
White as the Waves by Alison Baird
Synopsis: A retelling of Herman Melville's classic "Moby Dick" using the viewpoint of the title character, "White as the Waves" explores the life of the fabled white whale, from his birth off the Galapagos Islands to his fateful encounter with the man who would become his greatest nemesis. For younger readers.
Synopsis: "In the songs and bubble feeding of humpback whales; in young killer whales learning to knock a seal from an ice floe in the same way their mother does; and in the use of sea sponges by the dolphins of Shark Bay, Australia, to protect their beaks while foraging for fish, we find clear examples of the transmission of information among cetaceans. Just as human cultures pass on languages and turns of phrase, tastes in food (and in how it is acquired), and modes of dress, could whales and dolphins have developed a culture of their very own?
Unequivocally: yes. In The Cultural Lives of Whales and Dolphins, cetacean biologists Hal Whitehead, who has spent much of his life on the ocean trying to understand whales, and Luke Rendell, whose research focuses on the evolution of social learning, open an astounding porthole onto the fascinating culture beneath the waves. As Whitehead and Rendell show, cetacean culture and its transmission are shaped by a blend of adaptations, innate sociality, and the unique environment in which whales and dolphins live: a watery world in which a hundred-and-fifty-ton blue whale can move with utter grace, and where the vertical expanse is as vital, and almost as vast, as the horizontal.
Drawing on their own research as well as a scientific literature as immense as the sea—including evolutionary biology, animal behavior, ecology, anthropology, psychology, and neuroscience—Whitehead and Rendell dive into realms both humbling and enlightening as they seek to define what cetacean culture is, why it exists, and what it means for the future of whales and dolphins. And, ultimately, what it means for our future, as well."
Synopsis source: https://press.uchicago.edu/ucp/books/book/chicago/C/bo12789830.html
Beluga: A Farewell to Whales by Pierre Beland
Synopsis: "A powerful of one man's transforming journey to discover how the St. Lawrence River beluga whales live, why they are dying mysteriously of cancer, and what we can do to prevent this tragedy in the future. "Important reading for those concerned about the environment". -- Publishers Weekly
Synopsis source: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/406354.Beluga
War of the Whales by Joshua Horwitz
Synopsis: This book is a 420-page expose of the U.S. military’s use of sonar in marine waters (worldwide) and the effect of this technology on whales. Ken Balcomb (plus his research) and environmental attorney Joel Reynolds are some of the key elements of this book. Our cofounder Caiti Rose (Sharktopia) has just begun reading the book and will update this synopsis with a review when she is finished.
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