Judge: SeaWorld’s trainers must be protected from killer whales

Orlando – In a long-awaited decision in the OSHA versus SeaWorld case, Judge Ken Welsch has ruled that the park’s trainers should be protected by physical barriers or some other means providing the same level of safety, when working with killer whales.

The ruling, which was handed down almost two years after Dawn Brancheau was violently killed by the killer whale Tilikum, followed an appeal by SeaWorld over a $75,000 fine for a “willful” safety violation by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), levied six months after Brancheau’s death in Aug. 2010.

Although Judge Welsch downgraded OSHA’s charge from “willfull” to “serious,” and dropped the fine to $12,000, he ultimately upheld the Administration’s findings and ruled that all trainers must be provided with a physical barrier (or one of equal protection) during performances.

The ruling is a massive blow to SeaWorld’s entertainment parks whose trainer-orca interaction has formed the basis of many of its shows. Furthermore, the almost 50-page ruling, offered some harsh analysis of SeaWorld’s behind-the scenes operations.

In the report, which Digital Journal obtained courtesy of award-winning author David Kirby, Welsch said:

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