This post has been updated.
Long before a state Assembly bill aimed to keep killer whales out of SeaWorld San Diego, observers and insiders were emphasizing just how much Shamu meant to the park’s bottom line.
Their statements reveal the extent to which SeaWorld is tethered to the orcas that perform at packed shows, adorn the merchandise that dominates its gift shops and star in its marketing efforts.
The bill aims to halt SeaWorld San Diego’s s killer whale shows and captive breeding programs. If it passes, the measure could force SeaWorld to take more of an aquarium approach with its current killer whales and over the long haul, potentially eliminate the orcas it’s long given top billing.
Here are some key comments that underscore Shamu’s importance to the company’s business model.
• In 1997, ex-SeaWorld Research Director John Hall appeared in the PBS documentary “Whale of a Business” and said SeaWorld had pinpointed just how valuable killer whales were to the company’s bottom line.
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Lisa, you reported yourself at the beginning of this series that Disney's 2 parks in Anaheim and Universal Studios' in Hollywood draw more visitors than any of SeaWorld's parks. None of them are predicated on performing captive wild species. Successful businesses adapt to changing social norms. THIS is the true threat to SeaWorld -- the inability to adapt.
That is sort of, you know, their business plan, having orcas and all that stuff. It has been going on for a long time, and even though it is not my idea of entertainment I hope they will do it in the future.
Or turn the place into a great coaster park, a la Cedar Point. The trouble is that the coastal height limit will eliminate the possibility of fun rides, so keep the performing whales.
@Rabid Koala So you buy into the whole cruelty to animals thing? SeaWorld owns several parks with zero orcas.
If the Market place determines the "branding" of their product is inappropriate then they will adjust their brand.
These things do not occur overnight as many here seem to believe
What's the difference between a killer whale and an attorney?
I don't know, but it would probably be a good joke
This is an old argument. It does not ring true. In the past ten years I have taken visitors and grandchildren to Sea World. We went to see the Penguins, Bird Show, etc. Getting splashed by an Orca or watching tricks by trainers was not high on our list. People can be sold on other attractions at the park using them as draws. This could be to their advantage with this negative press. Take the high ground. It has been part of zoo's changes, why not Sea World's?
The very name "killer whale" tells us why these animals should not be "trained". They are evolved to be part of their environment, not ours.
@Monica Johnson That is a preposterous statement. Dolphins are also killers. They eat other fish don't they? Orcas eat more than just fish since they also eat seals, and have been known to also hunt sharks. Other kinds of whales demonstrate intelligent hunting tactics. The term killer whale isn't an official scientific name, and the reality is that it isn't even fair to call them that unless you start putting the word "killer" before every other animal or fish that eat flesh to survive.
It is abundantly clear by this blithe discussion of marine mammal exploitation: SeaWorld’s “mission” is not education, nor research, nor animal rescue (much of which is done by the federally-funded nonprofit arm): it is profits over animal (and human trainers’) welfare.
Not mentioned in the article: what is the revenue generation of their rollercoasters - the ones that are damaging to sensitive pinnipeds? Why do they fight so hard against environmentalists to have newer, bigger ones installed if performing orcas are the real financial draw?
@Sara_K Sara, you’ve got me stumped on this “piniped” business. Just what is the interaction between Sea World roller coasters and “sensitive pinipeds”?
Question 2: Where are the “sensitive” pinipeds? The ones I’ve encountered, including those who took over several wharfs in San Francisco, swiped numerous fish I’ve hooked because it’s easier than catching their own breakfast, or the ones fouling the waters at the Children’s pool or the cliffs at La Jolla Cove have two things in common: They are always hungry and quite aggressive when challenged.
Western Outdoor News, a weekly hunting and fishing publication to which I subscribe, last month published a summary of a study by marine biologists that alleged seals and sea lions are now consuming far more fish annually on the west coast that the combined catch of the commercial and sport fishing fleets. Since the pinipeds are increasing in number each year an estimated 3-4%, how long do you think it will be before “catch of the day” disappears from your restaurant menu?
If the roller coasters are actually slowing the advance of the pinipeds, let's hear it for the coasters!
@Bill Bradshaw Google "sensitivity of pinnipeds to noise and vibration," then consider the close proximity of those highly sensitive (to various frequencies) animals held *in captivity* near a rollercoaster-style source of human entertainment.
@Sara_K OK, Sara, I guess we’ve established that the fragile pinipeds aren’t actually in the splashdown area, they’re nearby. Holy cow, have you ever heard a sport fishing boat start it’s engines trying to get away from the sea lions? Doesn’t work very often; their hunger overcomes their “sensitivity”. I think you need a reality check.
@Sara_K Thanks Sara. I was on the fence about who to support in all of this controversy. I was initially intrigued and willing to listen to both sides. Now that I have heard you and others state your side of the case, I have made my decision that I think "your side" consists of unreasonable, whiny people. Thanks for helping me decide.
@Bill Bradshaw Western Outdoor magazine's conclusion is laughable. There were many, many, many more seals and sea lions prior to European exploration and eventual exploitation of the west coast. Seal fur trade decimated their their population. And somehow the fish population was booming. Look at early 1900's pictures of tuna fishing off of Catalina. Huge tuna were abundant right off Los Angeles' coast. Now a single large tuna can bring in tens of thousands of dollars because they are becoming so rare and demand is so high. The reason is simple, we (not seals) catch them faster than they can reproduce and mature.
To pin the decimation of fish stock on the recovering population of pinnipeds is pure denial of the real fact that we as a species are overfishing and over polluting our seas. You could wipe out all the pinnipeds and we will continue to suffer the decline of our fish stock.