Renowned orca scientist Dr. Ingrid Visser has requested that SeaWorld address its own use of distorted orca whale statistics that originally came from a paper she published in 1998. The study, which looked at a phenomenon called "dorsal fin collapse" (when an orca's dorsal curves sharply to one side), is being used to support a false claim, Visser told Elizabeth Batt.
Originally, Visser's study examined 125 whales in New Zealand and found that seven of the 30 males exhibited abnormalities on their dorsal fins -- though only one of these was a collapsed fin. This means that .8 percent of the orcas surveyed exhibited the condition.
In a document analyzing perceived "Misleading and/or Inaccurate Content" in the CNN documentary "Blackfish," SeaWorld writes: "Nearly one-quarter of adult male southern resident killer whales in the wild have collapsing, collapsed or bent dorsal fins," with a credit to the very paper Visser wrote.
Not only does SeaWorld point to the wrong population of whales (SeaWorld is talking about the Southern Resident Killer Whales off North America), but they also misinterpret the data. Only one orca had a collapsed fin in the study, but SeaWorld confused fin abnormalities with collapsed fins in an attempt to make the public think that dorsal fin collapse is normal among orca whales. The park also neglects to use updated research that has been published in the years since by Visser and others.
This isn't the first time SeaWorld has been accused of fudging scientific data, as Batt points out. Former SeaWorld trainer Jeffrey Ventre broke it down in this video: