National Marine Fisheries Service has no reason to withhold orca necropsy reports, Animal Welfare Institute says

By Carrie Bradon | Dec 12, 2018

A group of animal activists recently filed a lawsuit against the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) that contends the agency has the power to force SeaWorld to release necropsy reports for three orcas to the public. 

Reports are being sought for three orcas named Tilikum, Kasatka and Kyara, the first of which was featured in the documentary "Blackfish," a recent Orlando Sentinel article said. Among the plaintiffs of the case are PETA and the Animal Welfare Institute (AWI), which are claiming that the NMFS should force SeaWorld to release the reports to the public.

Naomi A. Rose, a marine mammal scientist with AWI, recently discussed the issue with the Florida Record

"The question isn’t so much why the NMFS is wrong, but why the agency thinks it is right," Rose told the Florida Record. "We have a 70-page legal analysis on why we think NMFS has the legal authority to enforce the submission requirements."

Rose said that the analysis was presented to NMFS, which reviewed the analysis and agreed to assess the situation. 

"Suddenly, after all of those months, NMFS simply told us they disagreed and they felt they did not have the authority," Rose said. 

AWI inquired why the NMFS felt that they lacked the authority, but the agency failed to disclose their reasoning. "We tried, without resorting to legal action, to learn their rationale for why they felt they did not have the authority to require the submission of necropsy reports and clinical histories required under these permits, but they wouldn’t share it with us," Rose said. 

Among the arguments being made by the animal activist groups is that the whales do not belong to SeaWorld but are the property of the people of the U.S.

"We truly do not understand why NMFS is hiding their analysis from us – it should be public record, since it’s the basis for their policy on these permits," Rose said. "NMFS has no reason to hide their rationale for their position from us, yet they are. So we are having to use the court system to shed light on this situation – to achieve the only thing we are asking for, which is transparency."

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