Seaworld Entering Hot Water
Weaker earnings and a very old wild orca call claims into further question
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The president of SeaWorld San Diego called the 2013 documentary Blackfish a “propaganda film,” but the numbers speak for themselves: a 13 percent decrease in visitors to the embattled parks and the recent discovery of a wild orca that is more than 50 years older than the age SeaWorld claims orcas live in the wild.
At the beginning of this year, SeaWorld Entertainment Inc. predicted that it would experience record profits of $1.46 billion even after the controversy following Blackfish—and it did. But the attendance boom didn’t last; in the following months, the number of visitors began to decline by up to 13 percent. The company’s first quarter earnings report for 2014, released Wednesday, revealed revenues of $212.3 million. That’s an 11 percent decrease from last year’s first quarter earnings—and wildlife campaigners suspect Blackfish played no small part in that outcome.
Also among SeaWorld’s responses to Blackfish was a dispute of the film’s claim that wild killer whales live more than twice as long as those in SeaWorld. SeaWorld insisted that “while research suggests that some wild killer whales can live as long as 60 or 70 years, their average lifespan is nowhere near that.” SeaWorld’s killer whale facts page asserts that its captive whales—the oldest of which is close to 50 years old—have comparable lifespans to those in the wild.
But a 103-year-old orca whale named Granny J2 is here to dispute those claims. Whale-watching group Ocean Ecoventures spotted her near Vancouver Island this past weekend. She’s part of the most-studied population of killer whales in the world. Knowing her advanced age, the group wondered if she would make it back for her pod’s annual visit to the waters off the coast of British Columbia. “It’s the first question: Is Granny there?” said Captain Simon Pidcock of Ocean Ecoventures in a CBC article. “And sure enough, she was.”
So not only has Granny very much outlived SeaWorld’s longevity estimates, she even predates the Titanic. With these new developments accompanying a glacier of a bill in California calling for a ban on captive orcas for entertainment purposes, SeaWorld may share a similar sinking fate.