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A Canadian Marine Park Is Suing A Teenager For $1 Million

The marine amusement park says Zach Affolter has made a "propaganda film."

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Marineland is suing this 19-year-old from California for $1 million over a short film he's making about the marine park's last killer whale, Kiska.

Zach Affolter

The Canadian company filed the lawsuit in Ontario this week to stop Zach Affolter from releasing Black Water, which was originally slated to be out May 20.

The lawsuit alleges an unnamed seasonal employee provided Affolter with altered footage "to falsely create an impression that the marine mammals at Marineland are suffering from animal abuse."

Affolter told BuzzFeed Canada that he doesn't have the resources to fight the lawsuit, and he's considering his options. He's delaying the release of his film for now.

“It’s ridiculous they would come after someone like me, some 19-year-old doing this short film," he said.

Affolter is a marine biology student at Humboldt University in California. He said he grew up wanting to be a Seaworld trainer, but came to realize that cetaceans are too intelligent and social for captivity. His 10-minute film is told from Kiska's perspective and portrays her despair at being trapped in a tank by herself.

Rising Sun Productions / Via facebook.com

In a statement to BuzzFeed Canada, Marineland said it "objects to the unlicensed and illegal theft of its images" and accused Affolter of being a patsy for unnamed interests.

"The propaganda film, which appears to be notionally 'fronted' by a young California based animal activist, but supported behind the scenes by radical activist groups, has a clear stated commercial purpose — to make money."

Affolter denies he's making a commercial product because he plans to release Black Water for free online.

He says he believes the lawsuit has more to do with stopping an honest conversation about what captivity does to intelligent sea creatures.

“I’m sure they’ve seen what Blackfish has done for Seaworld," he said. "They are a business and they want people to keep coming and paying for tickets."

Kiska is the last orca in captivity in Canada. The roughly 40-year-old whale has lived almost her entire life at the amusement park in Niagara Falls, Ontario. Animal rights activists have described her as "the world's loneliest orca."

Marineland / Via youtube.com

Last year, Ontario passed a ban on the sale and breeding of orcas after a years-long campaign by former trainers and other advocates to expose conditions at the marine park.

Marineland told BuzzFeed Canada that animal welfare groups like the Niagara Falls Humane Society have repeatedly investigated the park.

"The unequivocal conclusion of all the independent investigations by experts is that the allegations of animal abuse at Marineland are false," the company said.

Update

This post was updated with comment from Marineland.

Ishmael Daro is a social news editor for BuzzFeed and is based in Toronto.

Contact Ishmael N. Daro at ishmael.daro@buzzfeed.com.

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