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SeaWorld Attendance Continues to Plummet

| Mark J. Palmer
Topics: Captivity Industry, SeaWorld

SeaWorld Inc. released its most recent quarterly report on Tuesday, August 8th, and their red ink continues to spread.

SeaWorld experienced a net loss of $175.9 million for its second quarter.  This is the fifth consecutive quarter in which SeaWorld reported declining revenue and either flat or declining rates of attendance to its parks.

Attendance to SeaWorld parks continued to decline, by 4%, due to what SeaWorld euphemistically calls “public perception issues.”  In all, SeaWorld attendance was down by 353,000 since January 1st.  SeaWorld also blamed the low attendance on competition from other theme parks, but all of those parks are showing increases in attendance, suggesting that the problem is not competition, but public refusal to accept SeaWorld’s keeping of cetaceans in captivity.

Reaction on Wall Street was swift, with SeaWorld stocks down 7% at close of trading following the announcement of SeaWorld’s poor attendance and revenue.

The documentary “Blackfish” chronicled the dangers faced by SeaWorld trainers, a deeply held secret kept from the public and even the trainers themselves, from orcas imprisoned in captivity.  The documentary also examined the harm done to the orcas themselves in terms of behavioral damage, boredom, frustration, and eventual disease.

Since the release of “Blackfish”, SeaWorld has struggled to make the public believe that orcas are “happy” in captivity.  SeaWorld even took the step to end breeding of their orcas in captivity, making the current orcas (22 left) the “last generation” of captive orcas at SeaWorld parks.  Theme rides are replacing the orcas as major attractions at the parks.  But the public isn’t buying it.

The park announced new cutbacks of $40 million in expenses to address the downturn in attendance and revenue.

Instead, SeaWorld badly needs to end the cruel captivity of dolphins and whales.  These animals are being abused simply by separating them from their ocean homes and their families, rearing them in concrete tanks and making them do tricks 24/7.  Even the new “natural” shows put on by SeaWorld San Diego (to replace the circus performances of past years) involve keeping the orcas hungry in order for them to do the required tricks in response to their trainers’ orders.  It is not very natural.

SeaWorld’s dolphins, beluga whales, pilot whales and orcas deserve better from us.  They should be retired to seaside sanctuaries to provide a much more diverse, expansive and natural environment than SeaWorld’s tanks.  The cetaceans would still be fed and given medical treatment, but would be retired and no longer have to give shows every day of the week.


Photo by Michael Reppy.