In a move they telegraphed widely last week, SeaWorld has returned its trainers to the water with Killer Whales. SeaWorld says it is taking the re-acclimation process slowly, but having trainers interact with the killer whales in the water is an important part of their care and an important part of the safety training for trainers.
Unless you’re looking close, you won’t be able to see the activity. For now, all the encounters will take place away from public eyes in what is called their medical pool. This is a small area where killer whales are trained to enter when medical and well-being checks are performed. The floor can raise up so the trainers in the water are never too far from safety.
SeaWorld’s trainers have been kept out of any water containing killer whales since the 2010 death of Dawn Brancheau, a trainer who drowned after being dragged underwater by the largest Killer Whale at SeaWorld Orlando, Tilikum. An OSHA ruling says that trainers cannot be in the water with killer whales without a barrier between them, but SeaWorld is interpreting the ruling to believe that the rule only applies to public performances at SeaWorld’s theme parks.