Blackfish, Nonprofit Advocacy & A Call to Action

This afternoon I went to see the CNNFilms documentary Blackfish

It is heartbreaking. I never cease to be amazed by corporate greed and how it changes ruins lives, be it human or animal (as if there is much of a difference).


Tracing the path of orca captivity, Blackfish walks the viewer through the inner workings of marine parks like Seaworld and how their lies and profiteering techniques propagate lives of separation and aggression for the whales they harbor. Tiny pools, food deprivation techniques, alienation from their families - all just the tip of the iceberg. 

Told through the eyes of former whale trainers, the film made me regret my childhood trips to Seaworld in Aurora, Ohio (which was closed by SeaWorld nearly a decade ago). I remember the allure of "Shamu," but at what price?  

The film's director Gabriela Cowperthwaite has been quoted saying she didn't have one goal in mind for how audiences would react, but I'm left desperately wishing there had been a call to action somewhere in the film. 


I'm pissed, I'm sad, I'm ready to help the whales! But where do I go?

It isn't an easy search trying to find advocacy organizations, but there are several registered nonprofits making strides in marine advocacy, particularly toward whales. 

Cetacean Society International is working diligently, and recently experienced success when the NOAA denied an application for 18 whales to be imported from Russia for the Georgia Aquarium. The American Cetacean Society manages similar conservation efforts on a smaller scale. 

Orca Free is also a registered nonprofit focusing on conservation and education, and assists in the release of captive orcas back into the wild.

The marine conservation nonprofits above, like the film, lack a direct call to action.  

These nonprofits, like most charities, could more aggressively play policy and advocacy roles. Many of us teeter the line, unwilling to embrace a call to action for our constituency. So many of the nonprofit websites above indicate that the organization is doing great work, but on pages like "What can I do?" There aren't many options, merely platitudes about not taking children to view captive animals and limited advocacy opportunities.

Talking about issues isn't enough for Blackfish, conservation, and anti-captivity efforts, or for nonprofits in general. The digital space opens enormous doors for advocacy and policy change, from online petitions to web based content sharing and awareness campaigns, and nonprofits don't embrace the call to action enough. Often we are too donor-focused to realize the importance of issue-based engagement.

We all need to get up and do something.





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