It all started with a magazine story about a killer whale named Tilikum.

In 2010, filmmaker Gabriela Cowperthwaite read an article about the 12,000-pound orca tied to three deaths at wild animal parks, including two at SeaWorld. She decided to investigate.

What resulted was “Blackfish,” a documentary millions of Americans watched on CNN and Netflix – and serious blowback for SeaWorld, a publicly traded company that will celebrate its 50th anniversary next month.

Quest in article logoThe film, which argues killer whales don’t belong in captivity, raises both moral and economic questions about one of our region’s major tourist attractions.

Are SeaWorld’s killer whales truly suffering in confinement and if so, what responsibility do we have to push for change? What is SeaWorld’s economic impact on our region in the first place, and how is the continuing movement associated with “Blackfish” affecting its bottom line? What does SeaWorld give back to our community, and what local policies and developments has the company pushed in the last five decades?

I’ll try to answer some of these questions in coming weeks, and I hope you’ll join me as I embark on this quest.


We Stand Up for You. Will You Stand Up for Us?

I want to zero in on SeaWorld San Diego’s role in our region as both a tourism engine, as well as the impact of the critical documentary that’s sparked an international conversation about killer whales in captivity.

This topic ignites passionate responses from animal-rights activists, and many media outlets have focused on this angle.

But there are also moral and economic questions specific to San Diego. I hope to guide you on a fact-finding journey about SeaWorld’s influence in our region, and how “Blackfish” could shift it.

That’s my plan for now. How I move forward will largely depend on what I uncover, and on what matters most to you.

How has “Blackfish” colored your view of SeaWorld? Would you take your children there or recommend the attraction to out-of-town visitors? What would you like to know about SeaWorld’s history in San Diego?

Please add your thoughts in the comment section or email me directly at lisa@vosd.org.

Check out our first post in the Quest: SeaWorld series – SeaWorld’s Whale of a Problem: Required Reading – and our wrap-up of the quest – What We Learned About SeaWorld.

    This article relates to: Business, Economy, News, Quest, Quest: SeaWorld, SeaWorld, Share

    Written by Lisa Halverstadt

    Lisa writes about nonprofits and local progress in addressing causes like homelessness and Balboa Park’s needs. She welcomes story tips and questions. Contact her directly at lisa@vosd.org or 619.325.0528.

    77 comments
    Omar Passons
    Omar Passons subscribermember

    This is my first stop reading this series.  I begin reading as a supporter of Sea World and truthfully I'll probably end that way.  But I do feel obligated to see where your reporting goes.

    Phoenixlake
    Phoenixlake subscriber

    I find it extremely sad and disturbing to see marine mammals in captivity. Sea World was a bad idea 50 years ago for the Orcas, Dolphins that suffer for years until death in small cramped tanks. These animals are forced to perform for us. They do it from starvation training, they live in chlorinated water, they are lonely away from their family. What does Your Freedom mean to You? What would you do if locked up until death? 

    The facts are easy to see at Sea World, do not believe they are saving these animals. Sea World is making money, billions. You can look it up (Influence Explorer) and their lobbyist money to help propagandize their corporation. 

     Now they want to bring in Beluga Whales to add to the collections in captivity. The dolphins being killed and captured in Taiji Japan have direct links to the captive dolphin shows at all Marine Parks. This year over 150 dolphins captured for a life time sentence in captivity. When we allow this in San Diego CA, San Antonio TX, Orlando FL we are showing the world it is okay to take animals and enslave them for a Life Sentence of prison at Sea World. Unfortunately due to Sea World success at making money there are now dozens of marine parks opening in China and Russia.

     I believe we should all know the difference between Right and Wrong. There is No Way that keeping these Orcas and Dolphins Beluga Whales in captive concrete pools until Dead is Right?  This is Wrong, think about how we treat these animals. They all belong in the ocean. They do not belong in pools eating dead frozen fish packed with antibiotics, what a miserable life at Sea World.

     I Pledge I Will Not Buy A Ticket to support Sea World.

    What does Your Freedom mean to YOU?  How can we in San Diego continue this support of Slavery?

    Martha Sullivan
    Martha Sullivan subscribermember

    SeaWorld San Diego is celebrating this prisoner's 21st birthday today. The sad story of Shouka: born in captivity at Marineland in Antibes, France. Killer whales, or orcas, are known to be one of the most social mammals on the planet. In 2002, when Shouka was 9 years of age, she was loaned to Six Flags Worlds of Adventure in Ohio. For the 10 years that followed, Shouka would live without another orca as a companion.

    Six Flags obtained Shouka under the assumption that they would soon be importing another killer whale named Kshamenk (pronounced "shah-menk") from Mundo Marino in Argentina. Shouka was imported to Ohio while the Kshamenk deal was still pending approval from the Argentine government. When the legality of importing the animal came into question, Kshamenk was never relocated, leaving Six Flags with no suitable companion for an orca, and leaving Shouka utterly alone.

    By 2004, Shouka had been living alone for two years when she was transported to Six Flags Discovery Kingdom in Vallejo, California. With no other killer whales living at Discovery Kingdom, Shouka had made the cross-country trip to once again be housed with no companionship.

    The following year, Six Flags finally found a friend for Shouka in Merlin, a wild-caught, male bottlenose dolphin. Because orcas are technically the largest members of the dolphin family, Shouka and Merlin were biologically similar enough to be considered appropriate companions. Though past cases of orca-dolphin cohabitation have shown to be less beneficial than orca-orca arrangements, park officials hoped it would be an improvement over the past three years of Shouka’s life.

    But a 2008 inspection by the Animal and Plants Health Inspection Service reported Shouka as being "single housed" — meaning the park was keeping the animals separate though, reportedly, "next to each other a majority of the time." Making matters worse, in November 2011 Six Flags separated the two animals completely citing "recent compatibility issues" and ensuring it would seek another "suitable companion" for Shouka. This didn’t happen.

    In the months that followed, outrage erupted online. Media coverage grew and a petition was formed on Change.org acquiring more than 7,000 signatures. This evidently had an impact, and on August 20, 2012, Shouka was transported from Six Flags Discovery Kingdom to SeaWorld in San Diego. She arrived safely and is to be introduced to the eight other orcas living at SeaWorld. This is clearly a victory for Shouka and for animal rights activists everywhere, but it was far too long coming, and other cases of this kind of illegal treatment continue to go un-prosecuted.

    The reluctance with which these kinds of animal rights laws are observed and enforced in the U.S. needs to be addressed. As Mahatma Gandhi once said, "The greatness of a nation, and its moral progress, can be judged by the way its animals are treated." http://www.sheknows.com/sheknows-cares/articles/969897/shouka-the-killer-whale-10-years-without-another-orca.

    Jerry Hall
    Jerry Hall subscriber

    Interesting poring through OpenSecrets.org for SeaWorld and related campaign and pac contributions. 

    Mark Giffin
    Mark Giffin subscribermember

    Well Lisa.

    Pandora's box


    I like Sea World and I'm Glad they are a part of San Diego.


    tpaty14
    tpaty14 subscriber

    I greatly look forward to reading about your findings to these questions you have addressed. I think everyone should be asking themselves these very same questions as well as taking the time to learn for themselves rather than just taking one persons ( or companies) word for it. Knowledge is power!

    Phoenixlake
    Phoenixlake subscriber

    @tpaty14 here is something to consider while we are exploring the Sea World situation. Did you know there have been 159 Orcas die in captivity? 


    Barb Dunsmore
    Barb Dunsmore subscriber

    Now here's something the City of San Diego ought to and should aspire to.


    The City of Malibu announces special recognition for dolphins and whales and calls for other communities to protect them from a life in captivity. Thank you Malibu!


    PROCLAMATION


    WHEREAS, whales and dolphins are known to be highly intelligent and emotional creatures that live in families and other social groupings, associations that last for most, if not all, of their lives and therefore deserve the right to their own freedom and lives; and


    WHEREAS, the City of Malibu has a long history of supporting efforts to protect marine life, including the adoptions of Resolutions in 1992, 1993 and 1994 that called for the strengthening of the Marine Mammal Protection Act, encouraged continuing cooperative efforts of governmental and civic organizations to improve the safety of the Santa Monica Bay, Catalina and Channel Islands regions for cetaceans, and urging the International Whaling Commission and its U.S. delegation to recognize whales and dolphins as living cultural resources; and


    WHEREAS, it is every individual's responsibility to ensure that these magnificent creatures are protected in their natural environment to avoid the psychological and physiological harm and high mortality rates found in those living in captivity.


    NOW, Therefore, be it resolved that the Malibu City Council supports the free and safe passage of all whales and dolphins in our coastal waters and encourages citizens of the world to do all within their power to protect them and preserve the oceans in which they were destined to spend their lives.


    Presented this 24th day of February 2014.

          On behalf of the Malibu City Council

                       Joan House, Mayor


    Martha Sullivan
    Martha Sullivan subscribermember

    RE the 2002 SD City Council approval of SeaWorld's expansion master plan: "A few novel items: Sea World must spend half a million bucks for a transit station near its front gate, and give a $5 discount to anyone who uses it to get to the park. And 75 percent of Sea World's attractions must include a 'significant education or animal conservation element.'" http://www.themeparkinsider.com/news/response.cfm?ID=597.

    I don't recall seeing a transit station near SeaWorld's front gate. No discount for transit users on its website -- but you CAN pay $15 to park!

    And I would LOVE to see an independent audit of how 75% of SeaWorld San Diego's attractions include a SIGNIFICANT EDUCATION OR ANIMAL CONSERVATION ELEMENT.

    Chris Brewster
    Chris Brewster subscribermember

    Ms. Sullivan: The transit center is actually an MTS bus stop I believe. At least two MTS buses stop at Sea World on their regular route. I’ve ridden them and seen Sea World employees, as well as tourists, on the buses. There was a time that traffic headed to Sea World sometimes backed up all the way to I-5 on summer days. The entrance to the park was reconfigured fairly recently in a major way and seems to have greatly diminished traffic problems. I presume that Sea World paid for that. As to whether people with a transit pass get a $5 discount on entry, I don’t know.
    Regarding a “significant education or animal conservation element,” I would imagine Sea World would argue they are at 95%. It’s pretty spongy language.
    The leases on Mission Bay are typically 50 year leases I believe. That sounds ominous, but major entities like the Hyatt or Hilton would not build large infrastructure without a long-term payoff. That said, these leases tend to be renegotiated every five or ten years when the lessee wants to make changes to the property. In the 2003 change, it appears the city wanted to reduce personal watercraft rentals on Mission Bay and extracted a lease modification from Sea World to stop doing so. It’s a give and take process.
    It’s important to understand that the voters, through their elected representatives, control Sea World. Any lease renegotiation is an opportunity for change. As an example, the City Council could decide to block future lease modifications unless Sea World discontinued orca shows. Sea World would have to decide if that change were worth the other changes they wanted in the negotiations. There may be other openers in the lease language. I’d have to see the most recent lease to know. (I’ve been involved in lease negotiations on Mission Bay as a city official in the past.)

    Jerry Hall
    Jerry Hall subscriber

    @Martha Sullivan  It seems if SeaWorld has not been reimbursing people the $5.00, if that's truly an agreement they made, there would be a considerable amount they owe guests and visitors? 

    Martha Sullivan
    Martha Sullivan subscribermember

    Half a million bucks for an MTS bus stop? Seems pretty unlikely, but wonders never cease. Found THIS in Coastal Commission's approval last year SeaWorld's redesign of its entrance area: "5. Future Development. When the documented annual attendance level at the SeaWorld Park reaches four million visitors, additional traffic and parking mitigation measures may be required for identified Tier 2 projects and Special Project Sites, pursuant to the SeaWorld Master Plan Update EIR.... According to SeaWorld, the number of annual visitors in 2010 was approximately 3.8 million." http://documents.coastal.ca.gov/reports/2012/10/Th25c-10-2012.pdf

    As for 75% of SeaWorld's attractions including a "significant education or animal conservation element" ... Would LOVE to see an independent audit by educators comparing SeaWorld's lame propaganda with true education and animal conservation facilities like the Birch Aquarium at Scripps Oceanographic Institute or the Monterey Bay Aquarium. SeaWorld is a marine animal circus, nothing more.

    Phoenixlake
    Phoenixlake subscriber

    @Martha SullivanSea World has spent $3,920,000 on political lobbying to continue to enslave animals with impunity from politicians. You are correct they are nothing more than a Watery Circus. There is no research. There is no value in paying money to watch Slaves perform, we should all admit this is Wrong and not acceptable. The United States is supposed to be celebrating Freedom. The Orcas Dolphins and Belugas are not free. Their offspring are kept for a lifetime of slavery also. This corporation is Wrong and teaching our children the Wrong messages.

    http://influenceexplorer.com/organization/seaworld-parks-entertainment/0cc0ce4b70b24ebca2535ac1da0c79cb

    Martha Sullivan
    Martha Sullivan subscribermember

    Thank you for this excellent link to SeaWorld Entertainment's political donations, Phoenixlake. Very enlightening.

    Martha Sullivan
    Martha Sullivan subscribermember

    Thank you for posting this, Chris -- VERY interesting background here on all the giveaways to this mega-corporation by our City. "On November 3, 1998, voters approved Proposition D (The Sea World Initiative) which amended the 30 foot height limit to allow development to a maximum of 160 feet on the Sea World leasehold." I bet THAT wouldn't fly today.

    Also, according to SeaWorld Entertainment's prospectus for its IPO last year,

    "Under the lease, the Premises must be used as a marine park facility and related uses. In addition, we may not operate another marine park facility within a radius of 560 miles from the City of San Diego." (P. 85)

    HOW was SeaWorld able to take over Knotts Berry Farms' Soak City in Chula Vista and add marine animal exhibits there, per its 2013 prospectus? "Our Aquatica branded water parks are premium, family-oriented destinations that are based in a South Seas-themed tropical setting. Aquatica water parks build on the aquatic theme of our SeaWorld brand and feature high-energy rides, water attractions, white-sand beaches and an innovative and entertaining presentation of marine and terrestrial animals. We position our Aquatica water parks as companion water parks to our SeaWorld theme parks in Orlando and San Diego and we have an Aquatica water park situated within our SeaWorld San Antonio theme park." (P. 65).

    Chris Brewster
    Chris Brewster subscribermember

    There have been some questions here about the taxes, etc., that Sea World pays. Sea World is on leased public property in Mission Bay Park. (Mission Bay Park was developed under a plan to recoup costs through leases that generate income and Sea World is but one of many lessees.) Sea World's current lease is a matter of public record and managed by the Real Estate Assets Department, but does not appear to be available online. A document giving an overview of this lease arrangement and other issues, albeit from 2003, can be found here: http://docs.sandiego.gov/reportstocouncil/2003/03-188.pdf

    Jerry Hall
    Jerry Hall subscriber

    @Chris Brewster  @Martha Sullivan Here's some more information on the revenue. Interesting SeaWorld has the lowest rate of all the Principal Property Taxpayers listed on page A-21 here http://www.sandiego.gov/city-clerk/pdf/pffa/2013leaserevenuebond.pdf


    In any case, the bottom line is the, arguable to some, animal exploitation. It seems we could benefit in seeking a change and encouraging them to pursue another aquatic-focused theme that allowed them and the city to profit as much or more as they are currently enjoying. 

    Martha Sullivan
    Martha Sullivan subscribermember

    When you consider how much profit SeaWorld San Diego pulls in each year -- about $280 million, based on its corporate parent's prospectus that San Diego brings in 20% of profits -- SeaWorld San Diego's annual lease payment to the City of $9.6 mil is peanuts (or herring). 3% ?????? Another hard-hitting deal by our public officials. In exchange for 17 acres of Mission Bay Park land, and about 175 acres of other city-owned bay front land off-limits to the public. Not to mention that SeaWorld's display of rare Emperor Penguins taken from Antarctica as chicks and the confinement and factory breeding of intelligent, socially sophisticated marine mammals in sterile concrete tanks rather than the open ocean is contrary to the thrust of our public policy at all levels toward wildlife protection.

    http://seaworld.q4cdn.com/bd8f0a36-c992-4c6f-bfea-4700b64a9411.pdf?noexit=true.

    Quetzalcoatl Jones
    Quetzalcoatl Jones

    I would rather be a killer whale doing stupid pet tricks @ SW, than some guy stuck in solitary confinement because I gave one of the corrections officers that works my tier some lip.

    Quetzalcoatl Jones
    Quetzalcoatl Jones

    I wonder how all of these blackfish types feel about the "incarceration" of human beings all over this country for minor infractions? Why aren't they protesting the DA's office or holding signs outside of CCA? BTW: how many animals will I get to see on that $45 cruise? This is another Faux outrage issue for the Whole Foods anti vaccine set.

    Catherine MacRae Hockmuth
    Catherine MacRae Hockmuth

    A whale watching cruise is about $45 dollars. SeaWorld is $84. On the cruise you get to see whales being whales in their natural habitat. At SeaWorld you get to see them do stupid human tricks. To me, it's just no contest especially since I really don't care much for amusement park rides and entertainment. Even if there was plenty of evidence that SeaWorld does everything possible to keep it's orcas happy and well cared for, (and there isn't) I still could not support what they do. Humans can't and shouldn't keep and care for whales. I've always been uneasy about zoos as well, but I think the San Diego Zoo does an excellent job of providing a wonderful educational experience about animals and supporting conservation in a way that doesn't exploit those animals. But it's a nonprofit and they have a different mission than SW. I appreciate what SeaWorld does for injured sea lions, but it doesn't make up for what they do to whales.

    Lisa Halverstadt
    Lisa Halverstadt authormember

    Thanks for all the great comments, questions and suggestions. Keep them coming!


    Many of you asked about SeaWorld's lease with the city of San Diego. That's certainly something I plan to look at closely in coming days. I also want to do some research on past California Occupational Safety and Health Administration actions and reports. I look forward to sharing what I find.



    Marie Tutko
    Marie Tutko subscriber

    @Lisa Halverstadt  I've found the company to be an uncooperative source even for benign, straight-forward pieces on the park's role in (and effect on) the local tourism industry. They wouldn't release attendance numbers, for instance. Looking forward to this series and seeing what you uncover through public documents, especially regarding the lease.

    Mark Giffin
    Mark Giffin subscribermember

    Lisa.

    The question I would ask if what benefit, if any, does Sea World add to animal research, education and species preservation........in both dollars and knowledge.

    This subject obviously brings out the emotions of animal rights activists but I hope your series can provide some balance. As you pointed out most media outlets just seem to fuel emotions on this subject.

    Phoenixlake
    Phoenixlake subscriber

    @Mark Giffin please you do not have to classify all people that think Sea World is wrong as Animal Rights activists. All you have to do is see one Orca/Dolphin show, walk outside and look at the Ocean. If you think those animals belong inside those tanks instead of in that big beautiful Ocean then I am sorry, I cannot ever agree with that view. 

    Species preservation? they harvest semen from male animals impregnate females then keep the babies for life sentences in captivity. All for money, not saving species. The reasons are related to new laws against taking wild animals from the Ocean, not saving species. They call it Captive Breeding, two words that do not belong together.

    smoc1
    smoc1 subscriber

    It is obvious that Seaworld is responsible for decimating the Southern Resident Orcas. How has this affected all other sea life in this boundary?  How many conservation dollars have been allocated since by all rescue organizations because of what Seaworld initially caused? 

    Former Secretary of State Ralph Munro talks about SeaWorld https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lPB-YXIL0qY&feature=youtu.be

    smoc1
    smoc1 subscriber

    @Jim Jones  Why was Seaworld taken to court and forbidden from doing these captures then? Was the Secretary of State lying? I realize that this particular capture occurred some time ago but it has affected the wild life in this boundary to this day. The damages caused have cost more than all contributions that SW has made towards rescue and conservation.

    sddialedin
    sddialedin subscriber

    I'm really interested in following your series and investigation. Animal issues aside, I'm interested in the business...what kind of lease Sea World has and what they pay, taxes, coastal exemptions, parking, public access, etc. 

    Matt Finish
    Matt Finish subscriber

    Thanks for covering this. I watched Blackfish and was appalled. I hope SeaWorld goes out of business.


    Thanks to the other commenters for pointing out the land, tax and ownership issues.

    Matt Finish
    Matt Finish subscriber

    @Jim Jones @Matt FinishWhat the other responses said. Ideally, they'd be moved to a sea pen.


    Regarding taxes, I support eliminating almost all of them because most of what the government does is either violence, gross mismanagement and negligence, corruption, economic intervention, unlawful surveillance, or outright theft. Of the remaining 5-10% tax burden, it should be a flat sales tax on everything. But that's another issue entirely and I don't want to derail this thread.

    tpaty14
    tpaty14 subscriber

    These animals if unable to be released back in to the wild need to be moved to reserves in the oceans. They simply DO NOT belong in tanks of any kind. I think injured sea life such as whales/dolphins have a place in tanks, where those other options are not possible.

    shrkb8
    shrkb8 subscriber

    @Jim Jones SeaWorld spends more on lobbying and contributing to political campaigns than they do on animal rescue.  BTW - I do support a flat tax.  


    I don't want SeaWorld to fail but it is time for them to change their business model.  People are more enlightened today than when all this started, and social mores have evolved.  Its time for SeaWorld to adapt proactively or go out of business.They should stop cetacean entertainment shows, stop their captive breeding, and retire the animals to sea pens.  They can charge people to see the animals in their sea pens.  

    Mark Padgett
    Mark Padgett

    Told my family if you come out we will not do seaworld for how rhey treat animals

    Siri Forsman-Sims
    Siri Forsman-Sims

    I've never been and have no interest in visiting the place. Watching sentient beings swim in small circles and "entertain" children with hands full of cheap crap (garbage food or toys produced in countries where lax environmental standards allow us to pollute their waters while we raise hyper consumers) is NOT on my to-do list.

    Janet Shelton
    Janet Shelton subscriber

    I quit going to zoos and to Sea World about 30 years ago.  I could not justify it when I became aware that they are really just in it for the money and mostly don't care about the welfare of animals except as it affects the bottom line.  For zoos and Sea World, there is a lot of happy talk about research, but that is just icing they put on a crap cake.  Sure some of it is good, but most of it is window dressing.  They have highly intelligent animals which have needs and put them in prison, in tiny tanks without the company of friends and family.  And it is really all for amusement, all for making money. Over time, more information has come out about abuses, about how Sea World drives the capture and murder of dolphins and other sea mammals.  I quite eating meat/fish 25 years ago.  I grew up on a farm and I had no problem eating meat we raised.  But it is almost entirely factory farmed now, with incredible cruelty to animals, and with abuse of people who are poor and live in the areas with factory farming.  But the fact is that humans show this same cruelty to fellow humans.  In the news this week is the use of solitary confinement for decades.  Aside from the cruelty, it is incredibly expensive.  Cue the private prisons where they glory in expensive punishment. 

    YoLaTengo
    YoLaTengo subscriber

    I haven't seen Blackfish, but I've heard it's pretty disturbing. A simple solution regarding the use of killer whales for profit would be to ban breeding or the capturing of orcas for entertainment purposes. The whales that currently reside at Sea World can remain, but when they die, that's that. It may be several decades until the last whale is gone, giving Sea World plenty of time to adapt. 


    It's been years since I've been to Sea World; it's a complete rip-off in my opinion, kind of boring too.

    shrkb8
    shrkb8 subscriber

    @Jim Jones Four countries so far have outlawed cetacean captivity.  It is an embarrassment that the US is not a leader in this trend.  It is only SeaWorld's expenditures on lobbying and political campaigns that allows them to continue their cetacean cruelty.

    Phoenixlake
    Phoenixlake subscriber

    @Sydney Allen please tell me why they should all die in tanks? Sea World flies Orcas all over the world. They can retire these animals to Sea Pens in the Ocean. These animals deserve a retirement package similar to the Sea World Executives that kept them suffering for decades.

    I do agree it is a rip off no value park. Do Not Buy A Ticket.

    Terri Cain
    Terri Cain

    Yes, because there is so much there beyond the incarceration killer whales. I would explain the controversy when they are old enough.

    Martha Sullivan
    Martha Sullivan subscribermember

    So ... Given that SeaWorld San Diego is using City-owned land, so doesn't pay any property tax,and by its own CEO's admission, isn't paying any income tax for several years ... SeaWorld basically is generating record profits without paying taxes -- since Sales Tax is paid by the customers. And it's using increasingly scarce, public-owned bayfront land that is not open to the public, on which is kept rare New Zealand Emperor Penguins taken from Antarctica. On top of all this -- intelligent, socially sophisticated marine mammals are housed in conditions that would be considered abusive for companion animals in San Diego -- sterile, cement tanks with a minuscule fraction of the hundreds of miles these creatures are meant to swim every day in the open ocean -- loud noise blaring at them -- and factory-breeding.

    richard brick
    richard brick subscribermember

    Before I retired I taught Special Education in a small district in the east county. In the early 80's I got a letter from Sea World stating that they were inviting my class and several other special ed classes to Sea World for a Winter Snow Festival. Sea World would make enough snow for the kids to play in, it was also free.  I was told fill out a form so that they knew how many students I was bringing and we had to have one adult aide for every 4 students. I had 10 students  and 3 aides. All of this was free as a way for Sea World to do community outreach.


    Well we get to Sea World, go to the special gate that we were instructed to use, give them the special pass we were told to use, we are all excited to have such special day for these special kids. The Sea World employee counts our group and then says," and who will be paying for the 4 adults, total will be $140." Since I'm in charge I step up and say that we were told that this is for free. She says, free for the kids but we charge the adults. My first question after picking myself off the ground was, why weren't we told that the adults had to pay full price? She said something to the effect that I should have known.


    After using my credit card to pay, thank god I had one, we went on to have a nice day. I know this is not about Orcas, but it does point out what the real purpose of Sea World is. The real purpose is the bottom line, profits.  


    I have one question about Sea World and the land that it sits on. Is it true that the City gave this land and parking lot to Sea World for free and they pay no rent or taxes?  

    RetiredTeacher
    RetiredTeacher subscriber

    Many of these are excellent points.  I would no longer take guests or family members to Sea World, but I've felt that way for a long time.  The very fact that it needs to be called an "amusement park" puts the focus on those to be amused rather than those who live there.  The recently revealed behind the scenes cover-ups of aggressive behavior of the orcas toward humans should have long ago led to reconsideration and reform. 


    Institutions like Public Aquariums and research facilities and our own Zoo have all been moving toward the goal of conservation and preservation. It's pretty obvious that animals the size of orcas need something more resembling their natural habitat and that it may not even be possible to contain them at all. Most people are content to take a boat ride to see other whales...why not these?  The public deserves more respect from the owners of Sea World. We certainly don't need to see orcas performing tricks with humans to appreciate their beauty and feel wonder at their intelligence. 


    Sea World has an opportunity to put its massive corporate structure toward a more realistic approach to introducing humans to the experience of sea life in all its beauty. I highly encourage them to do so.


    Chris Brewster
    Chris Brewster subscribermember

    A clarification on Sea World ownership. A couple of commenters have mentioned Anheuser-Busch as the owner. (Anheuser-Busch is actually Anheuser-Busch In Bev due to a merger of sorts.) Anheuser-Busch sold its interest in Sea World in 2009 to the private equity firm Blackstone Group for $2.3 billion. In April 2013, Blackstone took the company public in an IPO, but retained majority ownership. Then in December Blackstone ratcheted down to less than majority ownership. The company has one year from that date to appoint independent directors to its board.

    It would not appear that Blackstone’s CEO is too savvy with respect to the PR aspects of all of this.  Note his faux pas in the following article: http://bit.ly/19SqHih

    One might speculate that Blackstone is exiting from the company in part to avoid the controversies. It's unclear whether they will have made money on this venture in the end or not: http://bit.ly/1bH1mZy

    Quetzalcoatl Jones
    Quetzalcoatl Jones

    When compared to a whale watching cruise, the cost of admission to SW is cheap .

    Catherine MacRae Hockmuth
    Catherine MacRae Hockmuth

    I am all for a plastic bag ban and also don't want to visit SeaWorld. A person can do two constructive things at once. I don't see how watching whales do tricks in swimming pools to music teaches children anything about the natural habitat of orcas. I don't disagree about the educational value of seeing whales up close, but recommend a whale watching tour instead if you want a real life experience.

    1kellylewis
    1kellylewis subscriber

    Lisa, *thank you* for looking into this deeper. Blackfish certainly solidified my opinion about the cruelty of keeping orcas. That being said, I appreciate that you'll be digging a little deeper. I don't think there's anything else I could learn that could convince me that orcas belong at Seaworld and are happier and healthier there. I appreciate what Seaworld does with it's rescue work, and I enjoy the other exhibits/non-show entertainment (except pets rule!)/rides it offers. We had a family membership for one year and I felt guilty going. We saw 1-2 shamu shows and they were hardly educational.I don't think Seaworld needs to continue keeping orcas to contribute to SD's economy. 


    1. Can Seaworld address the issues in BF rather than the massive defensive campaign they recently launched? This approach has turned me off even more.

    2. I'd love to know how BF has affected SW attendance. 

    3. What environmental/pollution issues are associated with Seaworld's location on Mission Bay? 


    I wouldn't mind seeing a local community movement to pressure Seaworld to end the orca captivity. Looking forward to learning more from this topic.



    Kat Vargas
    Kat Vargas

    There are more other amazing places and animals sanctuaries to visit in SD County.

    Jerry Hall
    Jerry Hall subscriber

    It would be interesting to see a mathematical comparison of the pool sizes SeaWorld provides orcas, dolphins and manatees compared to their native habitat. Then, do the same with humans. My guess is that it would be equivalent to placing an average human in an area less than one square foot. Such confinement would drive any animal crazy or, are we to believe that animals don't suffer from confinement?


    100, 50 and even 30 years ago I believe we justified zoos to populate the masses about animals, ostensibly so that we would learn to respect them and honor their habitats. Yet, we're driving animal populations to extinction. Unlike then, we now have the internet and enough bandwidth to educate anyone in the world that's connected about our planet's animals. 


    If our true goal is to save these animal populations then let's leave them in their habitats and support industries that help us observe them there. That would help build smaller businesses from the travel industry to the nature preserves in Africa, the latter using revenues to insure sustainability.

    My bet is that we will do far more for preserving these populations following that strategy than the current practice we employ in our zoos and SeaWorld-type aquariums. 

    And if we're really confused as adults, let's spell out the facts to our kids and let them help us decide. My bet is they would be the first to want to see these animals in their own habitats and not in our zoos, aquariums and circus side shows.