‘Blackfish’ gives SeaWorld a black eye

Nearly all of the acts scheduled for coming concert series have pulled out

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Number of orcas known to be kept in captivity worldwide


Number of captive orcas owned by SeaWorld, according to public Securities and Exchange Commission filings

$538 million

Total revenue reported by SeaWorld in the third quarter of 2013

$9 million

Approximate amount of money the SeaWorld & Busch Gardens Conservation Fund has spent on conservation, rescue and rehabilitation efforts over the past decade, according to its 2011-2012 annual report

Sources: Whale and Dolphin Conservation, SEC.gov, SeaWorld & Busch Gardens Conservation Fund



“We’ve talked things over, and decided not to play at SeaWorld at this time. We watch movies too, ya know! Have you seen Star Trek IV? It’s quite good. Kidding … We sometimes do that. This is a complicated issue, and we don’t claim to understand all of it, but we don’t feel comfortable proceeding with the gig at this time. The SeaWorld folks have been gracious and extended us invitations to the park to learn more about what they do, and how they do it.”

– Barenaked Ladies, via their Facebook page


Last we checked the roster for SeaWorld’s Bands, Brew and BBQ music series, it was looking pretty scant. The only acts that hadn’t canceled their appearances as of then were REO Speedwagon, Martina McBride, 38 Special, Justin Moore and Scotty McCreery. It must have started looking pretty embarrassing, because when we logged onto the SeaWorld website last week to see what acts were still scheduled, the roster was MIA.

Blame it on the Barenaked Ladies, who were the first to announce that they were backing out on their SeaWorld show after watching the controversial documentary Blackfish, which aired on CNN in November and revealed to millions that there’s a dark side to the park’s adorable Shamu shows. Shortly after Barenaked Ladies took their Big Bang Theory theme song and their ball and went home, a bunch of other artists followed suit: Heart, Willie Nelson, Martina McBride, REO Speedwagon, 38 Special and Trisha Yearwood have now all pulled out of commitments to appear at SeaWorld after thousands of fans signed Change.org petitions urging them to sever ties with the marine park. Joan Jett even wrote the park a letter telling them to cease and desist using her song “I Love Rock & Roll” in its Shamu Rocks show. Even devil-may-care hair-metal badass Tommy Lee contacted SeaWorld last year and gave them an earful.

Blackfish director Gabriela Cowperthwaite, who says she wasn’t a marine mammal activist before making the film, calls the trend encouraging. “If you tell people the truth, they’ll change the way they do things,” she says. “They’ll make powerful and dignified decisions.”

On Dec. 11, the Orlando Sentinel published a story questioning whether the public backlash would have any impact on the park’s bottom line. Conclusion: probably not. The piece points out that the park is on target to post massive earnings in 2013, Blackfish notwithstanding.

And the park, as it has been since the film’s release, was nothing if not dismissive of the movie’s potential to hurt it. Calling the critics “a small group of misinformed individuals,” spokesman Nick Gollattscheck said the artists have a standing invitation to visit the park and see “how little truth there is to the allegations made by animal extremist groups opposed to the zoological display of marine mammals.”

He said that the new lineup of Bands, Brews and BBQ artists will be revealed “when all artists have been confirmed.”

In the meantime, SeaWorld better hope that Justin Moore and Scotty McCreery don’t watch Netflix.

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