A Timeline of SeaWorld’s Demise: A Victory for Animal Rights Activism

The animal rights community has been waging war on SeaWorld for the best part of a decade, with this month marking a huge turning point in the battle to free the animals who are being imprisoned and enslaved in the name of ‘entertainment.’

On November 9th 2015, after relentless pressure from an increasing amount of activists from all walks of life, SeaWorld announced that they are planning to shut down their theatrical killer whale shows in their San Diego park by the end of 2016. While this is not the ultimate victory that animal rights activists are seeking, it’s a real game changer.

Companies such as SeaWorld are reliant on public opinion to be successful, and thanks to the hard work and dedication of all the people who have stood against their cruel treatment of animals, they are being forced to completely rethink how they do things.

SeaWorld Chief Executive Joel Manby said “We are listening to our guests, evolving as a company, we are always changing…In 2017 we will launch an all new orca experience focused on natural environment [of whales]. 2016 will be the last year of our theatrical killer whale experience in San Diego.”

Any exhibit which involves the capture, breeding, or imprisonment of Orcas (or any other animal for that matter) is totally unacceptable, but this news announcement is definitely another step in the right direction.


SeaWorld’s largest Orca, Tilikum kills trainer Dawn Brancheau by dragging her under the water by her ponytail in front of a horrified live audience. The incident raised alarm bells with the public, and journalists began to dig deep to uncover the story behind it, while SeaWorld maintained that it was a freak accident and played it down.

Reported Tim Zimmermann publishes an article in Outside Magazine, titled The Killer in the Pool, which highlighted the circumstances behind the incident, and exposed the dark and dirty secrets the marine park industry had been keeping away from the public eye.


Another in depth expose of the marine park industry was released by Zimmerman in Outside Magazine, called Blood in the Water, and it unveiled an even more disturbing picture of what life was like for orcas in captivity. He highlighted other incidents like the one at SeaWorld, exposing the myth that this was a ‘freak accident’, showing that it was the consequence of the mental health of extremely intelligent animals being exploited in this way.


After a long investigation, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration bans trainers from having close contact with the Orcas and hits them with a $12,000 fine.

Journalist David Kirby publishes a book titled “Death at SeaWorld,” which goes into great detail about the Dawn Brancheau incident, as well as numerous other similar ones around the world, and following the story of Naomi Rose, a marine biologist who had warned about the potential dangers of keeping orcas in captivity for years.


In January, the documentary Blackfish is released, gaining major mainstream media coverage, going viral on social media, and bringing the plight of orcas in marine parks to the forefront of public attention. This is the catalyst for widespread public anger and upset about the industry and leads to an onslaught of demonstrations, marches, and online petitions.

Famous musicians cancel their SeaWorld performances, people are urged to boycott the marine park altogether, and by the end of year all the bad publicity has resulted in a 5% drop in attendance.


SeaWorld, who had refused to be featured in the film, hit back against the bad publicity by creating a campaign called “the truth about Blackfish” in which they claim 69 reasons why the film is not to be believed.

Public outrage reaches the political stage, where an amendment to the Agriculture Appropriations Act is passed, calling for the policy on cetacean captivity to be updated.

A petition with over 32,000 signatures is handed to Southwest Airlines in July, and they agree to end their 25 year marketing relationship with SeaWorld, and immediately repaint all airplanes to remove SeaWorld markings.

By the end of the year, SeaWorld announce that their share prices have dropped by 51%, and attendance by another 5%, and profits are down by 28%. Jim Atchinson stands down as SeaWorld CEO. Investors launch a lawsuit against SeaWorld, claiming that they had been mislead by the company about the impact that Blackfish was having on attendance levels.


By August this year, SeaWorld reported an 84% drop in quarterly earnings, and a further 2% drop in visitors.

In early November, congressman Adam Schiff announces that he plans to introduce the Orca Responsibility and Care Advancement Act which will phase out captive orcas in the US in the next 50 years.

Just after Adam Schiff’s announcement is made, SeaWorld release a statement saying that they will end theatrical orca shows in it’s San Diego park by the end of 2016, also revealing that the company expects to see a $10 hit on its profits this year.

Until Every Tank is Empty

This year’s announcement to end the theatrical orca shows is huge, but we not forget that it is only in one park, SeaWorld are still running a breeding program, and animals are still being exploited in their tiny aquatic prisons day after day.

The progress is here for all to see, but we need to continue fighting for the animals being exploited at SeaWorld until every tank is empty.

Photo Credit: SeeBeeW


Animae C
Animae C2 years ago

They are not shutting down anything!!!

Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus3 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

Nikki Davey
Nikki Davey3 years ago

Sea World really is an anachronism and should be closed down. As of course equivalents in other countries too.

Kamia T.
Kamia T3 years ago

Can't come too soon IMHO. I remember seeing all the animals looking limp, tired and sad when I went there as a small child.

Virginia Watson
Virginia Watson3 years ago

There are so many untruths in all of these reports that it boggles my mind how many people can believe them. If Care2 really cared about "imprisoned" animals they would be shutting down the circus and puppy mills where animals are truly mistreated.

Donna T.
Donna T3 years ago

thank you

Terri S.
Terri S3 years ago

I feel like SeaWorld is making small changes, hoping to shut us up. Although each change is good news, we need to keep fighting until all marine mammals are free and safe!!!!!!!

Sanaa Naeem
Sanaa Naeem3 years ago

This truly is a prime example of how social movements can make a huge change. I think sometimes people forget that the voice of the people really can make a massive, tangible difference. What better way to do such a thing than to do it for the welfare of others who can do it for themselves? But there's still a long way to go, as the article says. Still though, I think it's important as well as impressive to take a look back and see what we've done.

Fi T.
Past Member 3 years ago

There's still much to do

Ana Luisa Luque M.

Boycott SeaWorld!!!!