ORLANDO (CBSMiami/AP) — New safety protocols for trainer interactions with killer whales at SeaWorld are being kept secret by a federal agency. This, despite a judge’s ruling that they are not trade secrets.
The Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission has refused to make public the SeaWorld safety protocols almost a month after a deadline passed for their public release.
The Associated Press on Monday filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the agency seeking the new safety measures. The protocols explain the rules SeaWorld trainers are now required to use when interacting with killer whales following the death of trainer Dawn Brancheau. She was killed in February 2010 when a six-ton killer whale named Tilikum pulled her into a pool.
In an email, OSHA spokesman Melik Ahmir-abdul said, “A few of the lawyers here were concerned about whether the agency could potentially be held liable for releasing the protocols.” Under federal law, a federal government worker or contractor could face up to a year in prison for unlawfully disclosing trade secrets.
A federal judge in August denied a request from SeaWorld to keep the protocols secret, saying the marine park company had failed to establish that its safety protocols are a trade secret. He gave the commission a month to review his order before making the protocols public in late September. OSHA never released the safety protocols then.
“The protocols that SeaWorld wants to remain under seal reflect the training methods and techniques its trainers implement poolside with the killer whales,” Judge Ken Welsch wrote in his ruling. “An observer knowledgeable in the behavior and training of killer whales could likely ascertain the information contained in the written protocols by watching the trainers interact with the killer whales.”
A SeaWorld spokesman did not immediately respond to emailed questions.
(TM and © Copyright 2013 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2013 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)