Poll: Is SeaWorld Defending Shamu Shows to Protect Orcas — or Revenues?

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Sunday’s U-T San Diego carried a long debate and analysis of the ethics of keeping killer whales at SeaWorld. The issue exploded with the “Blackfish” documentary critical of the practice and state legislation that would ban such shows.

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But little was said about the economic implications of SeaWorld losing its star attractions.

Late in his column, a SeaWorld San Diego vice president wrote: “We should also not ignore the potential long-term economic repercussions of such legislation to our community. There are few regions targeted more by the animal rights agenda than here in San Diego. The significance of SeaWorld, the San Diego Zoo and Safari Park should never be under estimated. These world-renowned iconic symbols of our city, which attract more than 9 million visitors annually, employ nearly 10,000 San Diegans and account for more than $1 billion in economic impact.”

The writer, Mike Scarpuzzi, then quoted Mayor Kevin Faulconer as saying: “This bill will only serve to hurt San Diego jobs.”

SeaWorld insists that keeping orcas benefits the species by educating park visitors and having a chance to study them up-close. But in an adjoining column, Assemblyman Richard Bloom writes: SeaWorld is also a valuable asset and job center for San Diego. To be sure, my bill would require some adjustment of its business model. SeaWorld marketing, dependent on ‘Shamu’ in decades past, has, commendably, become far more diverse. Moreover, the bill pending before the Assembly acknowledges that the existing group of orcas likely cannot be safely released into the wild and may be displayed publicly.”

What’s your take?

This is the first in a series of weekday polls in Times of San Diego. To suggest poll topics, write contributing editor Ken Stone.

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