Is Sea World Finally Clearing Its Name?

Sea World got socked pretty hard again last year with another drop in attendance according to the report by the Themed Entertainment Association. Their Orlando park was hit with another drop, this time by 8%, which isn’t nearly as bad as the San Diego park taking a 12% dip. By far, these were the biggest drops in attendance seen in any major theme park in the world last year.  

Themed Entertainment Association Attendance Figures

Before you go jumping to the conclusion that this is all due to the documentary “Blackfish,” that isn’t entirely true. Sea World Orlando saw a decrease of 6.8% in 2009 and nearly double that in 2010 with a dip of 12.1%. Thanks to Rober Viands for the info. There was no “Blackfish” then, so animal rights activists can’t exactly take the credit for that. More likely we saw a drop thanks to increased competition down the road from Universal Orlando with The Wizarding World of Harry Potter and Disney’s free ticket on your birthday promotion in 2009.

Blackfish movie poster

2015 might just be the year that Sea World Orlando turns its image around. No matter what you think of Fox News, they are the highest rated cable news organization in America. Many eyeballs were on John Stossel on June 14, 2015 when he called CNN out for airing “Blackfish,” calling the network “deceitful.” 

According to the research Stossel did on the documentary, many of the claims the film makes are not only untrue, but they fabricated scenes for dramatic effect. For example, remember that scene where they show a baby orca being hauled away from its mother over 35 years ago and you can hear the mother audibly cry? According to Stossel, that was an added sound effect. Sea World has publicly admitted to doing that 35 years ago, but “Blackfish” does make it seem like the company continues the practice of taking killer whales from the wild and placing them in captivity even now. 

In addition, the film claims that the dorsal fins on the animals which have gone limp at Sea World is a direct result of being held in captivity. According to many marine biologists, that happens just as often in the wild as it does when they are in captivity. Also worth mentioning, according to those same scientists, the life span of a killer whale in captivity vs the ocean is roughly the same. 

John Hargrove

Then John Hargrove, the most outspoken former Sea World trainer interviewed in “Blackfish” (who also has his own book about his time at Sea World), took to Twitter after the Stossel special aired on Fox News. In the special, Stossel says he reached out to Hargrove for comment or an interview. Hargrove took to Twitter and tweeted the following an astonishing nine times in a row (all of which have currently been deleted):

Screen Shot 2015-06-16 at 12.43.43 PM

Luckily, John Stossel kept his e-mail records from contacting Hargrove’s representative. Not only did they want to do a 30-minute pre-interview, but Fox News was also willing to accommodate his hair and make-up. Communications literally stopped. Perhaps it was a scheduling issue or maybe Hargrove didn’t want to be a part of a television special discrediting the film (and thus his book) which currently provides him with a comfortable living? 

No matter the issue, finally the masses are starting to discredit many of the key points in “Blackfish” and not take it all as fact considering it was aired on CNN. 

Mako Sea World

In Orlando, the biggest announcement to come out of a theme park in 2015 so far was Sea World’s announcement of Mako, which will be Orlando’s tallest coaster topping out at 200 feet. It will also be the fastest with a top speed of 73 miles per hour. Fans are once again excited for Sea World Orlando and this will help turn the park around, but will it be enough?

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One Comment

  1. fan51
    Posted June 16, 2015 at 2:21 pm | Permalink

    I never watched Blackfish. This issue doesn’t matter to me, but I think the public has a visceral bad reaction to large animals held in captivity to perform animal acts. In other words, the animal rights activists and environmentalists are winning this argument. SeaWorld may still prevail, but their star attraction is no longer attracting. While killer whales still have a place in the park, the focus should be on other attractions. Unfortunately, there’s a natural limitation of animal exhibits. They need to move towards a rides based theme park to break through in attendance. Disney’s Animal Kingdom is easily double that of SeaWorld. Their latest attraction (Avatar) won’t even be based on real animals. They have a section on extinct animals (dinosaurs), mythical animals (yeti), and animated animals (Nemo).

    The roller coaster is nice, but they should consider gentler rides that attract the majority of the public.

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