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HEAD ABOVE WATER

Sea World, fallen on hard times since “Blackfish,” will lay off 350 employees

AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack
SeaWorld is ending its live orca shows, but it may be too late to save the company.
  • Zoë Schlanger
By Zoë Schlanger

Environment reporter

This article is more than 2 years old.

Since the 2013 release of the documentary Blackfish, which lambasted SeaWorld for its treatment of orcas, attendance at the company’s entertainment parks has been dropping, and dropping further.

On Wednesday (Oct. 18), the company told the Orlando Sentinel it would lay off 350 employees, effective immediately. The cuts come after SeaWorld executives announced a goal to find $40 million in total extra savings through 2018, according to the Sentinel.

Attendance dropped by 353,000 visitors in the first half of 2017 compared to the same time in 2016, according to numbers SeaWorld disclosed in August.

SeaWorld most recently cut 320 jobs last December, and eliminated 300 jobs the year before that, shortly after the then-CEO of the company resigned.

The company ended its controversial orca-breeding program last year, and phased out its theatrical “Shamu” show that featured the orcas, otherwise known as killer whales, in California. Orca shows continue at the company’s Texas and Florida parks, but are slated to end sometime in 2019, according to National Geographic.

The company appears to be making an effort to pivot to rides, as described by the Sentinel:

In Orlando, SeaWorld is building Infinity Falls, a raft ride with a 40-foot drop, that will open next summer. The company also announced this month a new water slide planned for Orlando in spring. SeaWorld is also expanding its Sesame Street offerings at the Orlando park.

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