Clippings from an upcoming documentary have revealed what life is like for captive orca's at SeaWorld.
The time-lapse footage features a 3-year-old killer whale resting motionless in a performance area whilst audience members fill the stadium.
Marine life experts and animal rights groups have slammed the behaviour. PETA UK Director Mimi Bekhechi describing the video to the Huffington Post UK as "deeply disturbing" and a "sharp contrast to orca mothers and their babies in the wild."
Rob Lott, an orca expert from the WDC told the Huffington Post UK: "Captive orcas, like this one at SeaWorld San Diego, are sad caricatures of their wild counterparts as, when not performing in the circus style shows, they spend the most of the time logging at the surface like this.
"In contrast, wild orcas spend nearly 90% of their time travelling, foraging and socialising with other pod members – all things a captive orca, living in a barren, featureless, concrete tank could never begin to experience."
Despite such comments SeaWorld maintain that the floating behavior is normal for the orcas.
A spokesperson for SeaWorld told The Huffington Post UK on an email: "At the most basic level, these so-called killer whale experts have it all wrong.
"The resting behavior in the video is a natural behavior seen in the wild. For example, the Southern Resident ecotypes have been seen resting as much as 10-21% of the time. (Heimlich-Boran 1988, Ford 1989, Morton 1990, Baird and Dill 1995, Ford and Ellis 1999, Saulitis et al. 2000.)"
Center For Whale Research reports that wild orcas are known to travel vast distances. Southern Resident Killer Whales travel an average of 75 miles a day and they are capable of sustaining an average speed of over eight miles per hour.
The time-lapse video is part of an ongoing documentary project about the endangered population of orca in the Pacific Northwest, and the complex web of factors (environmental, political, & cultural) contributing to their decline.
In real time, the scene lasted six minutes and was recorded at SeaWorld San Diego, and was played at the Coastal Commission hearing to approve SeaWorld's expansion plan.