Tallahassee Journal

SeaWorld copes amid PETA pressure on whales

SeaWorld copes amid PETA pressure on whales

At up to 32 feet long and weighing up to 22,000 pounds, a killer whale is more than a match for any human — including the CEO of SeaWorld Entertainment (SEAS). The theme park company starts the year with a new interim CEO, David D’Alessandro, a switcAP CAPTIVE MARINE MAMMALS A USA FLh just made amid a continuing outcry from animal-rights activists about keeping killer whales, the parks’ biggest drawing cards, in captivity.

The company blames the controversy for deterring potential showgoers, mainly at its San Diego park, and for the resulting toll on earnings. D’Alessandro takes the helm after CEO Jim Atchison was moved aside last month. SeaWorld offered no specifics about the change; Atchison will stay on as vice chairman of the board of SeaWorld Entertainment, which is parent to three SeaWorld marine parks in the U.S. and eight other entertainment venues.

Even without a new permanent CEO in place, SeaWorld says it has a plan to get itself out of its public-relations quagmire. It hopes that a new killer whale pen in its San Diego park that’s twice the size of the existing one — its Blue World project — will mollify critics and reassure guests. But the 10-million-gallon tank isn’t expected to be ready until 2018.

Until then, SeaWorld is emphasizing its care facilities for injured birds and marine mammals, and notes it’s spending $10 million “focused on threats to killer whales in the wild.”