Shedding Light on the Captive Cetacean Industry

Photo by Mark J. Palmer


The International Marine Mammal Project (IMMP) joined several organizations and individual scientists in a lawsuit against the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) over the agency's position that it does not have the lawful authority to enforce permit provisions requiring the submission of necropsy reports and veterinary records of the deceased orcas Tilikum, Kasatka, and Kyara. Tilikum and Kasatka, two orcas featured in the 2013 documentary Blackfish, and Tilikum’s granddaughter, Kyara, all died in 2017 of reported lung infections. The permits that were issued to import Tilikum and Kasatka specify that SeaWorld must submit these records to NMFS upon the orcas' deaths — a stipulation that, in Tilikum's case, also applies to his progeny, including Kyara. NMFS did not obtain these records and now claim, without legal justification, that the 1994 amendments to the Marine Mammal Protection Act voided those provisions. As a result of the agency's position, the public is denied access to vital information about the impacts of captivity on orcas, as well as data that can inform the rescue and treatment of injured or ill marine mammals in the wild. 

Significant Developments

May 22, 2020: Case Update

IMMP and co-plaintiffs file notice of appeal of the district court's decision granting the federal government's motion to dismiss on standing grounds.

November 29, 2018: In the News - The San Diego Tribune

Why did SeaWorld killer whales die? Animal acitivists sue for release of necropsy reports

November 28, 2018: In the News - Orlando Sentinel 

Animal activists sue for SeaWorld necropsy reports while Orlando company faces other lawsuits

November 27, 2018: In the News - Orlando Weekly

Animal advocates sue federal agency over necropsy reports for dead SeaWorld orcas

November 27, 2018: Blog Post - International Marine Mammal Project

Trump Administration Sued Over SeaWorld Necropsy Reports for Captive Orcas

November 27, 2018: Case Update

Complaint filed in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia over NMFS's failure to enforce certain permit provisions following the deaths of Tilikum, Kasatka, and Kyara.


International Marine Mammal Project 


Don Baur, Perkins Coie

Lizzie Lewis, Eubanks & Associates

Focus Area

Wildlife Protection