It's Time to Free Willy


By Camille Mendoza A dead whale, animal rights activists protesting outside SeaWorld parks every day, and the CEO stepping down have not deterred SeaWorld yet. But perhaps the 50% fall in stock value will. Following the backlash of a 2013 documentary called "Blackfish," which details the horrific and inhumane treatment that orcas face in the theme parks, SeaWorld's revenue fell to $495.8 million in November 2014 from $538.4 million a year earlier, and profit dropped to $87.2 million from $120.7 million. These are a direct result from the 5% decline in park attendance. While these numbers seem hurtful, a company like SeaWorld thrives off sponsorships and marketing deals, but even these seem to be waning.

Sea World

Corporate sponsors and celebrities are backing out from contracts and endorsements with the marine mammal organization, signaling a deep lack of confidence all across the board. Sponsors such as Hyundai Motor America, Panama Jack, Southwest Airlines, and Virgin America have cut ties with the company, and, perhaps the most shocking organization to end the partnership was the Miami Dolphins, who will not renew its marketing contract with SeaWorld after it expires in March. In today's society, there are few people who have more influence than celebrities, and some, including Olivia Wilde, Matt Damon, and Ewan McGregor, also spoke out against SeaWorld. All of these unfortunate events lead towards an obvious conclusion: SeaWorld needs some serious damage control.

Before he stepped down in January 2015 after the negative media attention, former CEO Jim Atchison said in a news release, “Clearly 2014 has been a challenging year, but I am confident we are taking the necessary steps to address our near-term challenges and position the company to deliver value over the long term.” Consequently, the company responded to the backlash by announcing $50 million worth of cost cuts, which include laying off an unspecified number of employees, and a $300 million plan to double the volume of its killer whale habitats in all three parks, which should be completed by April 2018. Even so, these measures cannot undo the impact that the documentary Blackfish had on the world. As the public becomes more knowledgeable, the company becomes less profitable. If this trend continues, perhaps a world without unnecessary captivity is nearer than previously thought. The numbers don't lie, and they are screaming, "It's time to Free Willy."