It was in March of this year when SeaWorld announced that their most well-known orca was sick. According to a press release by the park, Tilikum was suffering from a bacterial infection in his lungs and was not expected to survive. Now it seems, Tilikum’s health is improving slightly, SeaWorld, however, is not.
When the largest holder of marine mammals in North America teamed up with the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) to announce that it would cease orca breeding across its parks, CEO Joel Manby willed the world to accept that the leopard had changed its spots. HSUS, who had hounded SeaWorld for more than 20 years, even surprisingly, declared, “this March, the fight ended.” It alarmed some, for whom, the fight was just beginning. Despite the partnership, and SeaWorld’s best efforts to strike a cord with the public, the park could not seem to escape the ‘Blackfish Effect.’
At the beginning of May, financial results for the first quarter of 2016, reported a staggering net loss of $84 million compared to a net loss of $43.6 million in the first quarter of 2015. Just this week, we learned that its California-based park was the only park in its region to experience a drop in attendance, making it the “worst performing park in North America.” While some claimed the lack of new attractions for the drop in attendance, others claimed that SeaWorld was still reeling from Gabriela Cowperthwaite’s documentary, ‘Blackfish.’
I have difficulty in accommodating the role of the HSUS in the sport fishing arena. Other than encouraging catch and release where possible, I see no reason for this organization to exert any influence in sport fishing. I have an even stronger opinion of PETA, which is just too extreme to even get my attention.
SeaWorld naysayers also consist of ordinary people who simply want the truth from a company that makes billions of dollars from displaying animals. They are parents who wish to raise their children with better awareness and children who inherently know something is wrong when they see it. It is the everyday consumer who has joined the call to demand that aquariums acknowledge current science in their business models. They know this science does not support captivity for complex marine mammals such as whales and dolphins.