“Blackfish,” the haunting exposé of SeaWorld that dives into the extraordinary nature of orcas, their cruel treatment in captivity, and the inner workings of the multi-billion dollar marine-park industry was unfortunately denied a much-deserved Oscar nomination.  Everyone at SeaWorld Entertainment is probably breathing a huge sigh of relief and planning more celebrations for the company’s 50th anniversary year. But hold on SeaWorld! Let’s not get too excited just yet.

While the Oscar nod would have been another giant step in the incredible journey “Blackfish” has taken since its release in the summer of 2013, it is by no means going to slow down the movement it has inspired.  You only have to stop and think about how far this little documentary has come so quickly to appreciate and understand why this is not where the story ends.

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I still vividly recall walking into a dark movie theater last July, on a warm New York City evening. A couple of friends and I decided to escape the summer heat to watch a movie. The one we chose that evening was “Blackfish,” a brilliant small-budget documentary focusing on an issue involving animals, which like most issues involving animals, typically gets little to no attention in the media.

I thought I had read enough about the horrors of orca captivity in David Kirby’s excellent book “Death at SeaWorld” before ­­­­­­­­­watching “Blackfish,” but nothing could prepare me for the detailed, graphic, and heartbreaking insight the documentary provided. Suffice to say, the handful of people that saw the documentary that day walked away stunned, upset, and asking ourselves one question: “Now what? Were we just going to move on with our lives and let these majestic creatures be exploited by marine parks like SeaWorld for petty amusement?” That’s exactly the reaction millions of people eventually had after watching the film (and many more will continue to have in the months and years ahead).

This is because of one simple reason: the shocking facts “Blackfish” exposes about SeaWorld and the true nature of orcas are too compelling to be ignored.

That’s why “Blackfish’s” October 24 television premier on CNN swept the ratings and helped propel the documentary from an activist favorite to a mainstream media sensation. That’s why SeaWorld has been in a world of pain for the last few months,  as musicians cancelled performances, shareholders dumped stocks, and even kids started to distance themselves from the marine park and their famous killer whale shows. That’s why SeaWorld’s stock price dropped roughly 26 percent, from $38 to $28, during the months “Blackfish” aired  on CNN, and received great reviews from critics. That’s why SeaWorld worked hard from the get-go to discredit the film and have recently taken out full page ads in several newspapers and even fudged an online poll in an attempt to silence their critics.

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The truth is SeaWorld is worried, but they are a $2.5 billion publicly traded company and have no option but to continue to insist that all the  “Blackfish” buzz is not impacting their attendance numbers. And they’re not doing themselves any favors by continuing to carry off silly stunts like creating treadmills for its captive whales, using the killer whale featured in “Blackfish” to breed, and most recently, parading penguins at the New York Stock Exchange. Whatever the public relations team at SeaWorld is trying to pull off, it’s unfortunately failing badly, because public sentiment is turning against them and SeaWorld’s smoke and mirrors stand no chance against it.

So let’s not waste time fretting over the Oscar snub, and continue to stay focused on  the compelling facts that cannot be denied. If awareness continues to spread at the current rate, SeaWorld will have no option but to do something. If they are truly committed to being a theme park and an entertainment company that wants their guests to “celebrate, connect with, and care for the natural world we share,” they will  finally acknowledge that it’s time for a change.

It’s time to put in place a real plan to release their captive sea animals into sanctuaries, where they can live out their lives in a more natural environment.

I can’t think of a better way to celebrate SeaWorld’s 50th anniversary!

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Are you Outraged and Want to End Marine Animal Captivity at SeaWorld? Here are 3 things you can do:

  1. Share this article and encourage more people to watch “Blackfish.”
  2. Do not go to SeaWorld and encourage others to do the same.
  3. Join our campaign to share facts about Orcas in Captivity on Twitter using the hashtag #OrcaFacts, so that the truth rings loud and clear! (See sample tweet below.)

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