SeaWorld theme parks will be laying off 350 staff as it struggles to attract enough visitors, the company said Wednesday.
The cuts will impact the parks in San Diego and Orlando, according to Fox 5 San Diego.
“We do not take this task lightly. It is an unfortunate, but necessary, consequence of the restructuring that some positions will be lost,” the company said in a statement, according to Fox 5. “We remain committed to creating world-class guest experiences, providing comprehensively for the care of all our animals, and continuing our company’s focus on stranded marine animal rescue and ocean conservation initiatives.”
According to the San Diego Union-Tribune, attendance at SeaWorld had dropped 4 percent during the first six months of 2017. Around 353,000 fewer people visited, which the company said was a result of “public perception” issues.
The documentary “Blackfish” came out in 2013 and chronicled the captivity of Tilikum, an orca whale. The whale was responsible for the deaths of multiple people at SeaWorld and the documentary chronicles what it calls the “cruel treatment” orcas receive when they are captive.
Orcas are one of the most powerful predators in the world, according to National Geographic. They are very smart animals that favor cold waters close to the coast, eating other marine mammals.
In March 2016, the company announced it would stop killer whale shows at its San Diego location. The final performance took place in January, according to National Geographic, but the parks’ other locations plan to end orca shows in coming years.
SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment operates 12 parks and is currently developing a location in Abu Dhabi. That location will “the first park of its kind to launch with no orcas or killer whales,” the company said. SeaWorld is also expanding its Orlando park with a raft ride and Seasame Street attractions, the Orlando Sentinel reported.