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SeaWorld's Slippery Slope

SeaWorld has received massive attention in recent weeks, beginning with the premiere of Blackfish on CNN October 24th. CNN had major publicity for a week leading up to the premiere. The film was the highest ranking film on CNN this year and was the second most mentioned cable news show on Twitter. #BlackfishonCNN trended for a good portion of the opening weekend. Blackfish also had a big younger viewer turnout.

SeaWorld San Diego facebook page was forced to disable comments following a debate including SeaWorld, and captivity, advocate Jack Hanna.

Tuesday SeaWorld was in the stoplight again as they entered the US Court of Appeals for the ongoing OSHA saga. SeaWorld, with the assistance of Eugene Scalia (son of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia), is appealing OSHA’s use of the General Duty Clause when issuing it’s original citation in 2010. Comparisons were made to football and hockey players and NASCAR drivers. The difference, however, is that there have been feasible safety changes and improvements in these sports. Scalia also repeatedly dismissed expert testimony by OSHA witness David Duffus, stating that he lacks knowledge to captive orcas. However, Duffus was involved in reviewing the coroners report for Keltie Byrnes (Tilikum’s first victim 20 years ago) and stated at the time that her injuries were consistent with the predatory behaviors he witnessed in wild orcas. Scalia also repeatedly stated that SeaWorld’s “product” is the close contact between trainers and the killer whales.

The entire audio of Tuesday’s hearing is available here.

Today SeaWorld released their highly anticipated 3rd quarter earnings report which states:

Attendance for the first nine months of 2013 declined by 4.7% compared to the same period in 2012 from 19.9 million to 18.9 million guests. Attendance was impacted by new pricing and yield management strategies implemented at the beginning of 2013 that increased revenue but reduced low yielding and free attendance, adverse weather conditions in the Company’s second quarter and in July, and the negative impact of an early Easter in 2013.

According to their press release:

Attendance trends improved in the third quarter compared to the second quarter reversing a negative trend earlier in the year, with a 3.6% decline versus a 9.5% decline in the second quarter. Attendance trends also improved steadily within the quarter with July attendance down 5.7% due to adverse weather and August/September attendance down 1.8% as weather conditions improved. Preliminary attendance in October showed continued improvement with attendance comparable to prior year levels. In addition to adverse weather, the attendance decline in the third quarter was an expected result of planned strategies that increased revenue but reduced low yielding and free attendance. These strategies were implemented at the beginning of 2013 to increase revenues and operating margins through higher quality attendance which the Company achieved in the third quarter. – See more at:

Gabriela Cowperthwaite, Blackfish director, has repeatedly said in interviews, making Blackfish was peeling back the layers of an onion. The onion has been peeled and SeaWorld has been exposed.

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