04/24/2012: "Emmy-Nominated Film On Orcas Moves To New Location After Complaints"
(Pam Pearson -contributed photo)Pam Pearson is the Senior Vice President and General Manager of KCPQ-TV (Q13 Fox) in Seattle, and was scheduled to present the first public showing of the Emmy-nominated investigative TV series, “Orcas: Are We Loving Them to Death?” to an expected sellout crowd at the Friday Harbor House on Thursday; but, not going to happen; at least not at the Friday Harbor House.
The Friday Harbor House decided to back out of their agreement with sponsor Orca Relief Citizens’ Alliance after complaints from some in the whale watching business. This resulted in a mad scramble to quickly find a new location, but the show will go on, at 7:00pm on Thursday, April 26 at the Sea Shepherd Gallery, 155 Nichols St., in Friday Harbor.
Seating is limited, and tickets may be obtained by contacting Jennifer Lee at 378.8628, or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org .
Following the film and discussion, there will be a reception for premium ticket holders with Pearson and Orca Relief staff. Ticket prices are $15 for the movie and discussion, and $50 for both the film and the later reception. All proceeds of the event go to the Orca Relief, the only non-profit organization chartered with reducing Orca death rates.
Mark Anderson, Orca Relief Chair issued the following statement: “We want to specifically thank our friends at Sea Shepherd for making their space available for this event, for their ongoing concern for the world’s marine mammals, and for their courage in the face of threats by those making money from whale exploitation, worldwide.”
So what happen? Chef Kyle Nicholson, who also wears the “Inn Keeper” hat, said he had received a number of complaints from commercial whale watching operations that the film cast their industry in a bad light, and would have a negative impact on attracting tourists to the islands to watch the whales.
Nicholson said he had not been aware the film was “controversial,” and did not wish to put the hotel in the middle of a controversy, so he canceled the showing in the banquet room, and a reception at Bluff restaurant that was to follow.
The Island Guardian contacted a number of the owners of commercial whale watching companies and found the controversy is alive and well even within their industry, with some operators stating that while then had not seen the film, they would not see it, and did not think it should be shown at the Friday Harbor House because it was -as more than one stated -“factually incorrect”, and “slanted” against the industry.
Two other operators would not return phone calls, and one said he had heard about the move to kill the showing, but was not part of it, and his policy was to not get involved.
And then there was the owner of the rather provocatively named “Kayak Quest For Killer Whale,” Mark Lewis. Mr. Lewis is a respected naturalist and co-author of the “Birds of San Juan Islands,” and said he was not a fan of the whale watching boats.
Lewis said that Q13-Fox had run two short excerpts from the film on channel 13, which he had in fact seen, that showed a whale watching boat operator unknowingly talking to one of the undercover TV reporters, stating that when the regulators were not around, they ignored the stay-back rules.
The film is “The best TV series made to date on the daily experiences of our local whales,” according to Orca Relief, that came about “after several major population crashes in the local killer whale population, the Q13 FOX (KCPQ-TV) News team reviewed the science and then went undercover on local whale watch expeditions to uncover the causes behind increased Orca deaths.’
Lewis said people should see the film, and that the boats have become a problem, following the Orcas from sunup to sunset, and the constant pursuing “is bound to increase stress” from the noise and pollutants the power boats release in the water. For Lewis the power boats are only one part of a problem the government is seemly not interested in effectively doing anything about, but they have been good “at wasting money, while the whale population is in dire straights.”
(Orca Relief Citizens’ Alliance is a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit organization. Orca Relief was the first organization to predict the decline in the Southern Resident Whale population, and the first to conduct scientific research its causes. The organization’s charter is to discover and reduce death rates among the local killer whales of Puget Sound. For more information on Orca Relief, go to www.orcarelief.org.)