When the documentary Blackfish premiered, it shook the entire world, SeaWorld fans included. For those who have never seen it, it divulged the dark history as well as all of the current issues with the popular parks. The film holds nothing back, including exclusive interviews with former employees, never before seen footage, and what appeared to be well-documented proof that those behind SeaWorld did not have the best of intentions.
To say that the documentary rocked animal lovers to their core would be an understatement, as an overwhelming number of people took to every medium they could in order to shed light on the situation. It spurred a global out lash among those who demanded answers from the parks who claimed to be helping sea life rather than caging and harming them. It's been six years since the release of Blackfish, so what's changed since then? We've got the answers.
10 Big Change: Orca Shows Have Been Phased Out
With a major overhaul in management came significant changes in terms of the shows that SeaWorld was so well-known for. Joel Manby not only listened to the pleas from fans but also respected the petition that forced a bill through in 2016, when the San Diego SeaWorld became the first to cease all live shows. In an effort to reverse their negative press and spotlight, SeaWorld has since tried to shift their efforts to education rather than entertainment. This includes in-depth educational attractions about sea life at the parks rather than the shows that SeaWorld was criticized and boycotted for.
9 Just The Same: OSHA Cited SeaWorld, Yet Again
According to the Los Angeles Times, San Diego SeaWorld was cited yet again in 2015 for failing to comply with the proper safety training for the staff. When working with orcas, it's no surprise that they're very capable of hurting a human being who's one-fifth its size. That's why safety laws are in place but unfortunately, SeaWorld didn't seem able to handle these. OSHA cited them once again which resulted in SeaWorld attempting to appeal the citation which, luckily, was denied. According to the Times, the citation came riding on the back of a complaint and upon further inspection, it was decided that safety measures were not being followed.
8 Big Change: A Change Of CEO
As previously mentioned, Joel Manby is the CEO who replaced the former, who was quite the headline when the world watched Blackfish for the first time. When Jim Atchison resigned, he left room for (what we'll loosely call) improvements to the state of the parks. Manby proposed significant changes to the park in an attempt to overhaul the way things had previously been run.
These included things such as the ceasing of shows, remodeling of animal enclosures, as well as halting the orca breeding program. While all of these things were imperative to creating a new brand, it just doesn't change the past.
7 Just The Same: Unfair Treatment Of Orcas Between Mother And Child
When it comes to defending their parks, SeaWorld has a poor habit of making claims that are easily debunked as anything but the truth. After Blackfish surfaced, the parks claimed that they were not, in fact, separating mothers and their young. According to One Green Planet, this was simply not the case at all.
Unfortunately, the ill-thought-out response only served to prove the documentary right. In the photo SeaWorld had intended to be proof, we can see an adult orca, Takara, who was being held at San Antonio SeaWorld, and her calf, Kohana... who was sadly moved to Spain before the age of four.
6 Big Change: The Orca Protection Act
The Orca Protection Act was something that Manby couldn't have ignored if he tried because it was passed in order to end the breeding of orcas -- something SeaWorld had previously engaged in.
In 2016, Manby made the decision to adhere to the feedback fans were giving and as of that year, there would be no more orcas of that caliber in SeaWorld parks. This was a smart decision on his part and hey, it was great of SeaWorld's CEO to heed the law. While the park claimed they only did this because of the harsh realities of the open ocean, there's still no proof to back up whether or not the orcas in captivity were better off.
5 Just The Same: SeaWorld Made Things Worse By Opening Up A Q&A Twitter Account
With some twisted logic, SeaWorld's PR decided to open up a Twitter account where they would answer questions in order to bring about truth over Blackfish. It was called 'Ask SeaWorld' and provided anything but the answers that people were so desperately seeking. People took to social media to probe the company on what the real story was, as well as demanding an explanation for what they had seen. Rather than comply and tell the actual truth, SeaWorld's PR team instead claimed that Twitter users were harassing the account and were insistent that they stopped asking the wrong questions. Bravo on evasion, SeaWorld.
4 Big Change: An Emphasis On Attractions Over Animals
Luckily, SeaWorld has found another thing to hang their hopes on beside the mistreatment of sea life. With all the controversy and significant dip in stocks, as well as in attendance, the brand needed to do something to bring positive attention back to them. The answer to this was to bring in attractions, similar to how a theme part will have a petting zoo or mini zoo in addition to roller coasters and rides. These attractions were intended to be inspired by SeaWorld's mission, yet have nothing to do with actual wildlife. We'll see if the attractions actually pay off.
3 Just The Same: Shareholders Are Still Following Through With Lawsuits
It's no surprise that since Blackfish came out, SeaWorld has been steadily losing stock shares. In fact, many sold theirs after hearing about the truth behind all the seemingly harmless shows the parks put on. The behind-the-scenes drama is that shareholders were misled by former CEO, Jim Atchison, to believe that the documentary would not affect their shares via attendance. Obviously, the documentary was bound to make an impact and that should have been common sense. The aftermath was that shareholders would sue the parks for misleading information, as well as over the claims that Tilikum continued to be bred despite claims that said otherwise.
2 Big Change: The Blue World Project
One of the biggest problems as stated in the documentary was the conditions under which orcas were held. Captivity suddenly gave way to a new meaning, and it was explained with cages that were too small and the separation of mothers and their young. This erupted into a full-on protest against the parks which pretty much forced their hand to change the way things were being done.
The Blue World Project was a one-million dollar project intended to remodel and upgrade all of the environments that orcas had been kept in, according to Cupcakes and Coasters. The intention was to recreate the outside world, including natural-looking rocks, scenery, and plant life.
1 Just The Same: SeaWorld Still Claims The Ocean Is 'Too Dangerous'
According to SeaWorld of Hurt, SeaWorld took to social media and advertising in order to justify their mission, if one can call it that. The claim they harped on the most was that the ocean was 'too dangerous' for whales which, in reality, makes no sense whatsoever. After the true conditions of SeaWorld and its enclosures had been revealed, there was plenty of evidence to point the finger back at SeaWorld rather than their false mission to save orcas from a reality that couldn't be fully substantiated. If this ad campaign was the best they could do when it came to promoting their brand, then they're not doing a very good job.