Disclaimer: I'm not an expert. I didn't personally work with the whales. I worked in attractions.
I am educated enough (and have enough common sense) to realize that a Fortune 500 company (not to mention a much-beloved theme park) could not work "under the radar" and abuse its animals to the degree presented in Gabriela Cowperthwaite's 2013 "documentary," "Blackfish."
It's obvious that an animal living in captivity will be limited in its environment; that's what captivity is. And I don't necessarily believe that Tilikum should be a sperm donor (although I haven't studied the genetic correlation between aggression in Orcinus orca from parent to offspring). Whether or not it's agreed that their captive environments harm the whales, it should be agreed that "Blackfish" is propaganda, and nothing but. The way that this "documentary" was organized was purposeful in its intention to cause the viewer to confuse Sealand and SeaWorld as the same company (when they are in fact a type of polar opposite). With ignorance, "Blackfish" only chooses to reveal the dark past of SeaWorld. For those who think that SeaWorld has tried to hide their past, they haven't. Any simple Google search will bring up the history of the park and the strides that it has taken, along with the acknowledgement of their past mistakes, to preserve and keep their marine animals in greatest comfort (by the way, many of these studies have posted dates before the release of "Blackfish"). The simple fact is that most of the claims in "Blackfish" are blatant lies. To correct a few of these lies:
SeaWorld does not, and has never, blamed trainer Dawn Brancheau for her death.
The park has not collected an orca from the wild in over 35 years.
Tilikum does not spend his days isolated. He performs in shows like One Ocean, is housed with his grandson Trua, and interacts with park guests from his habitat.
SeaWorld's orcas are housed in exterior habitats.
"Blackfish" had access to the truth from SeaWorld. Cowperthwaite asked for interviewers to be sent to SeaWorld to question them. They were presented with the truth about orca care, they just chose not to use it.
While many former trainers have spoken out against SeaWorld, these trainers spent limited time employed at the park for multiple reasons. Other experienced veteran trainers have nothing but praise for SeaWorld and disgust for "Blackfish."
The theme park has a bright future. Before the studies of marine animal psychology, experts had little to no idea how captivity affected these creatures. Now that there are extensive studies on how to keep these performing animals comfortable, don't you think SeaWorld is taking great strides to make sure that the proper care is given to their orcas?
As stated in my disclaimer, I'm not an expert on this subject. I can't dazzle you with statistics, and I can't share insider information on the dimensions of the whales' habitats, or the quality of their diet as compared to the quality of a wild orca's diet. What I can provide you with is the knowledge that SeaWorld does not (and would not ever) secretly abuse their whales. SeaWorld does not actively seek to promote or condone animal abuse. If anything, the company seeks to promote and condone animal preservation. I can't begin to tell you how many formerly injured species have found homes at Turtle Trek or Dolphin Cove.
Let's think logically: do we truly think that a theme park, filled to the brim with families and celebrities seven days a week, nearly every day of the year, could pull off the abuse of their performance animals? These whales (and sea lions, otters and dolphins) are seen by the public each day. Do we not think that the audience would notice an animal in severe distress (I'm not talking about the dorsal fin thing, which even in the wild can be attributed to multiple factors)? As a public audience, let's not give in to the mass hysteria that is "Blackfish." It is propaganda, presented with just enough organization and intelligence to get the American public to buy it.