Two years after the controversial CNN documentary “Blackfish” aired, illustrating the story of the orca whale Tilikum, the amusement park SeaWorld has suffered a significant loss of revenue, as well as bad publicity.
The film gave an in-depth view into Tilikum’s life and shed light onto his killing of SeaWorld trainer Dawn Brancheau.
Between the film’s release in 2013 to 2014, SeaWorld’s annual revenue decreased from $272 to $264.5 million. The park also lost partnerships with other companies, including its business partner of 15 years, Southwest Airlines, while suffering a steady decrease in stock (47% in 2014) and decreasing attendance rates.
Although SeaWorld declines to accredit their misfortunes to the documentary’s impact (known as the Blackfish effect) the film has caused a public uproar and infuriated animal activist groups. However, SeaWorld has launched plans to renovate all of their parks, including SeaWorld San Antonio.
Freshman kinesiology major Jonathan Carnes believes, “SeaWorld is mainly an amusement park, so to secure profit they have to consider the wants, needs and opinions of their critics and consumers. I would say the renovations are a response to ‘Blackfish’.”
Construction began in March 2015 and will continue through May of 2018. SeaWorld’s focus is on a complete expansion and renovation of the sea lion, dolphin and orca habitats.
The sea lion habitat, “Pacific Point,” will include a new restaurant, a coastal- themed environment and a new show. The orca habitat will nearly double in size, holding nearly 10 million gallons of water of swimming space for the orcas as well as larger viewing platforms for spectators.
The most drastic renovations will be made in the dolphin habitat. Dubbed “Discovery Point,” the dolphin exhibit will feature an underwater viewing section for spectators as well as the opportunity to swim with the dolphins. The swim will require an additional charge on top of the general admittance fee and patrons will have to undergo an informational class before interacting with the dolphins.
As of this time, representatives from SeaWorld San Antonio did not respond to any inquiry regarding the Blackfish effect nor questions about the park’s renovations.
In addition to bad publicity ‘Blackfish’ has called into question the ethical implications of keeping animals in captivity for the amusement of humans.
Freshman medical humanities major, Melody Ramirez says, “I find it really stupid that SeaWorld is such a huge company, but hardly provides for their animals. I think it’s wrong to use them for a source of entertainment.”
This $30 million renovation campaign is a long-term investment that will not affect the price of general admittance. Tickets will remain $59 for adults and $50 when purchased in advance online. However, the costs of food and souvenirs are expected to increase.