By: Eric Davis & Erin McKinney
Researcher Ingrid Visser has been very busy lately.
Visser, an orca researcher and anti-zoological advocate from New Zealand has been criss-crossing the globe as she photographs killer whales in human care in California, Texas, Florida and Spain.
Ingrid Visser recently gave a formal presentation as a “non-biased researcher” at the California Coastal Commission in Long Beach, California where she shared why she thought killer whales should not be kept in human care.
Only Visser does have a bias. And it looks lucrative for her.
Ingrid Visser’s Plan To Profit And Exploit Wild Killer Whales
She is planning on being a snorkeling guide for tourists on a Norway cruise with Waterproof Expeditions in January and February of 2016.
In the United States and in New Zealand, there are clear laws that prevent humans from harassing wild killer whales. In the US, the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) mandates a 100 yard (91 meter) viewing distance for large whales, whether that is on land or sea. In New Zealand the distance required is at least 50 meters (54 yards) away from whales while at sea.
But these marine mammal protection laws don’t exist in Norway and Visser and Waterproof Expeditions are taking full advantage.
In emails obtained by AwesomeOcean, we have established that Waterproof Expeditions and Visser are charging € 3,100 per person to exploit these majestic wild animals.
It’s one thing if Waterproof Expeditions, the company paying Visser, wants to exploit a legal opening to harass wild killer whales. But, since this “scientist” professes to be concerned for the well being of killer whales in human care, it is concerning that she will in fact be the guide on a cruise that can potentially be harmful to wild members of the species in clear violation of her scientific ethical considerations.
Just because the law in Norway does not protect these animals, does not absolve Visser of responsible practices established by her scientific field.
When Dr. Grey Stafford PhD, the incoming president of International Marine Animals Trainers Association (IMATA) learned about Ingrid Visser’s plan to profit and exploit the Norwegian killer whale population, he commented:
Landmark legislation like the Marine Mammal Protection Act prohibits harassment of wild cetaceans by restricting the sort of close vessel and swimmer contact depicted in this advertisement for what appears to be a purely commercial enterprise. So it is shocking that anyone claiming to be a scientific advocate for these animals would condone, participate, or otherwise gain benefit from it.Then again, this wouldn’t be the first or sadly, the last, example of the anti-zoo community’s “do as we say, not as we do” hypocrisy.
The fact is, if Ingrid Visser tried to hold this tour in the US, Canada, or her native New Zealand, she would be convicted of violating marine mammal protection laws in each of the respective countries.
She would be arrested and prosecuted.
Visser’s Hypocrisy: Okay for her, but not for them
While Ingrid Visser continues to make a career out of condemning SeaWorld and the 28 killer whales in their care, she actively instigates situations that can cause harm to wild killer whale populations and encourages the public to participate as well.
SeaWorld’s killer whale population is habituated to humans and they do not have contact with wild killer whales. Experiencing the species in a zoological context does not negatively impact the wild members of the species, unlike Visser’s tours and swim programs.
What Ingrid Visser is promoting and participating in has the potential to cause irreversible damage to wild killer whales through a blatant attempt to avoid marine mammal protections laws, in addition to placing humans in harm’s way through free contact with a wild, unconditioned predator.
Ingrid Visser Caught Harassing Wild Killer Whales In New Zealand
The upcoming Norway tour isn’t Ingrid Visser’s first time harassing wild killer whales. In her native New Zealand, Visser has been allowed by the government to swim with wild killer whales through a research permit.
However, this government permit stipulated contact for the purposes of research, not for Visser to swim with and play with the whales like they’re her pets.
As wild whales and dolphins become desensitized to human interaction, their risk of injury and death through boat strikes increases, as they approach vessels more frequently and with less apprehension.
Researcher Dr. Jordan Schaul commented:
Although scientific investigators don’t always forfeit their objectivity when interacting with their study subjects, playing with wildlife and even treating free-ranging animals as you might a companion animal, sets a dangerous precedence for lay people. Many scientists are inspired to go into the profession because of early connections with wild animals, but as you cultivate a greater appreciation for studying nature, most forego the tempatation to interact with individual animals for the benefit of science and out of respect for conservation efforts dictated by regulatory issues.
It is difficult to envision how Ingrid Visser can reconcile a program encouraging contact with wild animals while she simultaneously condemns zoological facilities for the same idea. Not only are Visser’s activities evidence of hypocrisy, they actively impair wild behavior studies and put the animals she so closely cherishes at increased risk for violent death and injury.
This conflict demonstrates another example of those who take the moral high ground over supporters of zoos and aquariums while exploiting and endangering animals for their own personal and economic advantage.
So much for leading by example.