The infamous park known for its star role in the 2013 Blackfish documentary, which is about orcas allegedly being forced into captivity by SeaWorld, has been drowning in even more negative publicity after recent incidents.
Like the park deaths.
Just over a month ago, on Dec. 21, 2015, devastating news blew up the internet with the third death of a whale within six months. Unna, an 18-year-old killer whale at SeaWorld San Antonio, died after suffering from a fungal infection called Candida. This infection shortened Unna's life to just 18 years, all of which were spent in captivity.
According to the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), “Females [killer whales] typically live about 50 years, but can live as long as 100 years.”
The other two whales that died at SeaWorld San Antonio were beluga whales; one was a newborn who died from being premature and the other was a two-year-old whale that died from gastrointestinal problems.
Captivity is found in zoos and other aquariums like the Miami Seaaquarium, where Lolita sadly lives. Lolita, a 49-year-old orca who lives at the Miami Seaquarium, is the oldest orca in captivity, and the orca who lives in the smallest tank in the country.
However, SeaWorld does house most of the world’s captive whales.
As a lover of the ocean and the environment, I have always hated the idea of animals being held in captivity for the sole purpose of watching magnificent creatures swimming in circles inside a bathtub for the rest of their life. That’s not entertainment — that’s enslavement. I know I am not alone, because SeaWorld’s numbers have dropped from 2013, when Blackfish was released, to 2014.
It wasn’t surprising that the park’s numbers would plummet.
The gross profit for Dec. 31, 2014 was $541,129, which dropped more than $61,000 in comparison to SeaWorld’s gross profit for last year’s gross profit of $602,736 in 2013.
“SeaWorld Entertainment operates 11 parks in five states, including Busch Gardens and SeaWorld. The company's revenue through the first nine months of 2015 fell 1 percent to $1.1 billion, while net income fell 20 percent to $60.2 million,” according to USA Today’s article, “SeaWorld to end killer-whale shows in San Diego.”
As more and more people watch Blackfish and learn about the recent deaths, the more SeaWorld is losing its battle with good publicity. The SeaWorld blog called SeaWorld Cares, attempts to defend the park.
SeaWorld’s blog post titled “Why ‘Blackfish’ is propaganda, not a documentary,” states, “We object to Blackfish because its two central premises are wrong: (1) that life at SeaWorld is harmful for killer whales and for trainers working with these animals, and (2) that SeaWorld has attempted to cover up the facts surrounding the tragic death of trainer Dawn Brancheau in 2010, as well the history of Tilikum, the killer whale involved in that accident. Nothing could be further from the truth.”
What’s contradicting to SeaWorld’s statements now, is that they are removing the floor lifts in the orca pools from parks in Orlando, San Diego and San Antonio that were installed during safety upgrades after Killer Whale Trainer Brancheau drowned in 2010.
The lifts were installed to raise orcas and trainers out of the water in an emergency. They are being removed because SeaWorld is discontinuing its killer whale show.
SeaWorld wrote on their blog, “Having safely and successfully conducted in-water desensitization training in the shallower medical pool for almost four years, the deep-water pool lifting floors are no longer needed.”
It sounds like that's SeaWorld's way of finally admitting that controlling whales in deep water, where the whales have the upper hand, is unsafe for humans.
I don’t know how long SeaWorld can keep its head above water before losing even more customers, money and desperately trying to restore its brand.
Veronica Brezina is a Digital Producer for the Central Florida Future. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org