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Like in a Greek tragedy, SeaWorld stepped onto the stage with good intentions and then crumbled its own empire through hubris, selfishness, and the mistreatment of a kingdom it claimed to love.

Photo by Valery Hache/AFP/Getty Images.


In three acts, this is how SeaWorld's orca program collapsed:

Act I. In the beginning, Sea World convinced us to love orca whales. And we listened.

"Americans' attitudes about orcas have changed dramatically," wrote SeaWorld CEO Joel Manby in an op-ed for the Los Angeles Times. "When the first SeaWorld Park opened in 1964, orcas, or killer whales, were not universally loved, to put it mildly. Instead, they were feared, hated and even hunted."

Who do we have to thank for that shift in whale PR? According to Manby: SeaWorld.


Photo by Matt Stroshane/Getty Images.

Of course, back in 1971, when the "Shamu Goes Hollywood" show premiered, no one knew that SeaWorld’s methods of acquiring the whales were questionable enough to get them sued by Washington state in 1976 and land them in a three year court battle in 1983 while trying to capture whales illegally in Alaska.

Given that most people’s knowledge of killer whales came from SeaWorld, we believed the company when it said orcas only live to be 30 years old, that dorsal fin collapse was normal, and that whales at SeaWorld were kept with their biological families.

Families vacationed at SeaWorld, children left the park carrying armfuls of Shamu stuffed animals, and the amusement park raked in profits by the hundreds of millions.

SeaWorld built its empire and cemented itself as the best place to see the world's new favorite creature for decades, and, with money coming in by the truckload and a public that loved seeing the whale tricks, it had a lot to be proud of.

As always, though, pride cometh before the fall.

Act II. "Blackfish" premiered, and we learned things were not as happy as they seemed.

Despite news coverage of two tragic deaths happening on Sea World properties in 1999 and 2010, no event in SeaWorld's history affected the company's public image more than the release of "Blackfish."

The2013 documentary focused on the story of Tilikum, the Sea World orca responsible for those deaths, and the treatment he experienced at the park that may have led to his behavior.


"Blackfish" director Gabriela Cowperthwaite at the Sundance London Film and Music Festival. Photo by Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images for Sundance London.

After the documentary premiered, attendance at SeaWorld dropped, and profits plummeted by a staggering 84%.

Though SeaWorld maintains that "Blackfish" misrepresented its treatment of whales, the facts continue to prove that orca whales do not belong in small tanks, forced to perform for eager crowds. The millions of people who saw the film could never erase it from their image of the theme park, and we as a culture became irreversibly aware of how whales in captivity actually live.

The so-called Blackfish Effect culminated in further profit losses for SeaWorld over the next two years as well as a wave of protests.

In 2014, 19 people were arrested during the Tournament of Roses Parade in Los Angeles for trying to stop a SeaWorld float mid-parade, and four people including a 13-year-old girl jumped the barricade at the 2014 Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City to stop a SeaWorld float from progressing.

Photo via Prayitno/Flickr.

"Jackass" star Steve-O went to jail in October 2015 for scaling a massive crane with an inflatable orca in his own protest, and One Direction heartthrob Harry Styles shared a tweet imploring fans to stop going to SeaWorld. Protests became a regular occurrence outside SeaWorld locations and even at the airports of cities that SeaWorld called home.

Act III. SeaWorld swallowed its pride and finally began responding to the public outcry on behalf of the whales it had taught us to love.

Last year, SeaWorld announced that it would begin phasing out orca shows, marking the official end of days for its most famous (and infamous) attraction. On March 17, 2016, the company made waves again when it announced that it would officially end its controversial orca breeding program.

"SeaWorld has been listening and we're changing," the company said in a statement released on its website.

The park hasn't collected an orca from the wild in almost four decades. With the breeding program shutting down, the whales currently under SeaWorld's care will be its last. Of course, many of those whales are young, and some of them are pregnant. So it will be quite a while before orcas disappear from SeaWorld all together.

Photo by Valery Hache/AFP/Getty Images.

And another thing that should be noted about this announcement is the timing — after all, Tilikum (the subject of "Blackfish") is currently dying of a bacterial lung infection.

Tilikum is in his 30s, and despite being connected to three deaths, he's SeaWorld's main source of breeding. When he dies, the SeaWorld breeding program would likely die with him, with or without SeaWorld's decision.

The collapse of the orca show is as much a victory for public opinion as it is for animal rights.

Despite the park's wealth and a team of lawyers that included Eugene Scalia (son of late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia), SeaWorld's orca shows simply couldn't survive the backlash of an angry public.

More important than anger, though, is evolution. It's one thing to be angry about how whales are treated, but "Blackfish" only highlighted something that had been going on for years.

The real victory here is that, once we were shown how bad it was, we voted with our wallets to let SeaWorld know that the mistreatment of animals is not something we support.

Photo by Valery Hache/AFP/Getty Images.

That's not just a victory for the whales, it's a victory for our culture.

Images provided by Pacifico

Making waves in the best way

True

At last, summer is here. And for many people, that means it's time for heading to the beach and maybe even catching some waves. Surfing is a quintessential summertime activity for those who live in coastal communities—it’s not only really fun and challenging, it’s also a great way to celebrate Mother Nature’s beauty. Even after a wipeout, the cool water mixed with warm sunshine offers a certain kind of euphoria. Or, you know, just hanging back on the sand is plenty fun too. Simply being outdoors near the ocean is its own reward.

pacifico quiksilver beach cleanupLet’s protect the places where outdoor adventure happensAll photos provided by Pacifico

However, it's well known that our beautiful beaches are suffering the consequences of overcrowding, pollution and littering. What was once a way of playing in nature is now slowly destroying it. And of course, this affects beachgoers everywhere. The sad truth is—without taking action to preserve all the natural joys the earth provides, we will eventually lose them.

But there is hope. Two popular brands that both have roots in surf culture have teamed up to help make trips to the beach a more sustainable pastime. The best part? You don’t have to know how to hang ten in order to participate.

Pacifico®, a pilsner-style lager originally brought to the U.S. by surfers, and Quiksilver, an iconic apparel company loved by both surfers and beach goers alike, have created a brand-new range of clothing and accessories with sustainability in mind.

Take a look below. These threads are great for all kinds of fun in the sun, without compromising the environment.

pacifico quicksilver beach cleanupsReady to make some waves

The collection launches on July 5 and includes tees and woven shirts, boardshorts, hats, flip-flops and a special beach towel and tote bag. The unique collaboration features the vibrant, colorful designs that are the hallmark of Quiksilver combined with Pacifico elements, created to make a positive impact.

Each item has been thoughtfully curated to minimize an environmental footprint and protect the outdoors. The hats, for example, are made from NetPlus® by Bureo®, a raw material created from South American recycled fishing nets. Additionally, the board shorts are made from recycled plastic bottles, and tees are made with 100% organic cotton. Pretty rad stuff, to put it in surfer lingo.

The prices on these pieces are equally rad, ranging from $28 flip-flops to $60 boardshorts.

In keeping with the sustainable ethos and protecting the places we play, Pacifico and Quiksilver will celebrate the products’ launch by hosting two beach cleanups. The first is on July 5 at Sunset Point in Malibu, California, from 4-5:30pm, and the second is on July 9th at Deerfield Beach in Florida from 8:30 – 10:30am.

pacifico quicksilver clothing lineCleaning up and looking good while doing it

Theses beach cleanups are open to anyone over the age of 21 who’s ready to have some fun while taking care of nature’s playground.

Those who can’t make it to the beach (bummer, dude) don’t have to miss out on all the fun. The new collection will be available on July 5th at www.quiksilver.com/mens-collab-pacifico. And even if you don’t surf, never plan to surf, have no desire to even be near a surfboard, rest assured, the apparel is still cool. Plus sustainable choices are always good fashion.

Our planet provides us with an endless supply of beauty and adventure. But without more mindful actions from humanity, its natural wonders will eventually diminish. Fortunately Pacifico and Quiksilver are making it easier than ever for people to enjoy the great outdoors without jeopardizing it. That’s a wave worth riding.

This article originally appeared on 09.06.17


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