SeaWorld Suffers a Second Huge Setback as “Blackfish” Backlash Continues

In the midst of a recent spate of awful news, here’s some good news: the “Blackfish” effect keeps going, as SeaWorld struggles with a second major setback in just one week.

Last week I brought you the news that as a result of the backlash from this powerful documentary, SeaWorld Entertainment’s stock fell 33 percent on August 13, in response to the company’s announcement of fewer ticket sales and lower second-quarter earnings, an indication that the controversies surrounding recent trainer deaths, profiled in the “Blackfish,” were scaring investors. SeaWorld’s shares are currently trading at their lowest price since it went public last year.

On the heels of that enormous blow to the SeaWorld empire comes another defeat: the company will no longer appeal the decision by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission (OSHA) that SeaWorld “willfully” violated federal safety laws requiring a workplace to be free from recognizable hazards. The marine park company said in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing last week that it wasn’t going to pursue the appeal of a court’s decision to uphold the citations.

Orlando-based SeaWorld, which has parks in Florida, California and Texas, received the citation after the 2010 death of trainer Dawn Brancheau, who was killed during a popular “Shamu” show with the orca Tilikum. The 12,000-pound whale grabbed her and pulled her under water in front of a horrified crowd.

“Blackfish,” you will recall, is the documentary that recounts the death of Brancheau. The film chronicles the life of Tilikum and the effects of keeping these predators in captivity; it challenges the very concept of keeping killer whales for entertainment, and implies that Tilikum had been driven to madness by captivity.

Now OSHA has found SeaWorld in violation of federal workplace safety law and has effectively banned trainers from swimming with the whales.

There will be no more swimming with Shamu.

After an investigation into Brancheau’s death, OSHA recommended that trainers perform with killer whales only when they have a protective barrier or sufficient distance from the marine mammals, making it impossible for trainers to swim with the whales during shows.

How exciting that all of the pressure from activists around the globe, including Care2 members, is definitely having an impact. Hooray!

Could this mean that we are moving towards the time when SeaWorld will end its killer whale training entirely, allowing the existing whales to live out their lives, and no longer training new ones?

With the company deciding to drop its appeal of this federal safety citation, things are certainly moving in that direction.

Meanwhile, trainers will still be able to swim with the whales during behind-the-scenes safety training exercises in order to acclimate whales to humans in case someone accidentally falls into a pool, said SeaWorld spokesman Fred Jacobs. He added that the company has also implemented new safety protocols and equipment for trainers, including an investment of $70 million in lifting floors in the pools that could quickly isolate whales.

Interestingly, SeaWorld also announced last week it was building new larger tanks for its killer whales, but declared that this had nothing to do with the bad press it has received since “Blackfish” appeared; nor with the fact that Southwest Airlines has pulled out of a partnership with them; nor with the fact that several entertainers, including country singers Trisha Yearwood and Willie Nelson and rock band Barenaked Ladies, have pulled out of planned performances at SeaWorld parks since the release of “Blackfish.”


Photo Credit: Thinkstock


Jim Ven
Jim Ven3 years ago

thanks for the article.

Teresa W.
Teresa W3 years ago

Down with SeaWorld!



Barbara M.
Barbara M4 years ago

If you want to see Orcas that badly, there is an alternative that gives you the opportunity to see them in their natural habitat and you know they are not being abused. Go on a whale watching tour. I have done several and, one time, our boat was between TWO pods of Orcas. Our entire time on the tour, we watched Orcas performing all the tricks you see in SeaWorld, but in the huge ocean and by choice. We even saw a couple of baby Orcas. It was wonderful, and we knew they were not being mistreated for man's greed!!!

Cheryl Mallon-Bond

It seems to me that Sea World has no intention of closing down the Shamu show anytime soon, no-one invests 70 million plus, & is shutting down. They think that once they show due diligence that they have stepped up to insure no other death's of trainer's happen again, (that like everything else), once the press quiets down about it all, they can go on like business as usual. The other reason they are implementing these new investments, is because surly the family of the killed trainer, are suing the pants off Sea World! It is a very sad thing that STILL too many people are ignorant to the suffering of marine life in captivity. There is just NO WAY they can recreate their NORMAL wild existence in a man-made environment, & therefore these majestic creatures suffer terribly in a myraid of way's. Man just can't seem to be happy in this world w/out in-slaving people as well as creatures of all species. It is sickening that man-"kind"(??????) can be so detached from the natural world & cause so much pain & suffering, all because of GREED! I am DISGUSTED!!!!

Sarah S.
Shari F4 years ago

Along with the petition and Facebook I mentioned earlier about getting British Airways to stop selling holiday packages to SeaWorld, there is also more we can do. The contact form for BA is here:
You can put in any text you like telling them about how you would like them to stop selling trips to SeaWorld because it perpetuates keeping orcas in captivity. This was my text. You can copy it or use your own:
'I write with regard to a petition asking BA to discontinue its offers on SeaWorld packages. The petition asked you to stop this activity on animal cruelty grounds.

Southwest Airlines has ended its partnership with SeaWorld. This comes after months of campaigning by Whale & Dolphin Conservation. In early January WDC called on Southwest to sever its ties with SeaWorld and since then they have been engaging with senior management at the airline, providing them with long-term data and current research findings about orcas in captivity. The facts are hard to argue with and I am thrilled that Southwest Airlines has listened and made the right choice. Will British Airways now do the same?'

It's a customer service online form so they have to answer you. They haven't answered me yet and I'm in the first stages of making an official complaint to them.

Anteater Ants
Anteater Ants4 years ago

good news

Elizabeth F.
Elizabeth F4 years ago

Petition signed withjoy!!!

Jeni S.
Jeni S4 years ago

Wonderful! I remember seeing that documentary on Netflix last Winter. I was appalled and so sad for those animals. You really would have no idea that their lives are so horrid from all the nice, fluffy commercials and nonsense. I'm so thankful that the documentary was made. I've never been to SeaWorld or any place like it, and now I know I NEVER WILL.

Linda P.
Linda P4 years ago

These magnificent creatures should NEVER be held in captivity. This is no life for them, they weren't meant to be confined and used for entertainment.