SeaWorld will not be appealing the citations it received following the drowning of one of its trainers who was pulled under by a killer whale.
According to a Securities and Exchange Commission filing by the company last week, SeaWorld Entertainment said that it has "elected to not pursue further appeal." The company will no longer challenge the decision of a federal appeals court in Washington that in April upheld the Occupational Safety and Health Review's findings and recommendations. OSHA had found the Orlando park violated a federal workplace safety law, and the court agreed.
SeaWorld prepared a statement, obtained by the Orlando Sentinel, on the decision:
The safety of our staff and welfare of our animals are SeaWorld's highest priorities, and since February 2010 we have made significant safety improvements... We are focused on the implementation of those improvements moving forward.
As such, we opted not to pursue further appeal of the court's decision, which was based on how we were conducting our killer whale program prior to February 2010.
After trainer Dawn Brancheau was killed in 2010 when she was grabbed by killer whale Tilikum, OSHA investigated her death and recommended SeaWorld pull all trainers out of the water, advising the park have trainers interact with killer whales through a protective barrier or from a safe distance. However, trainers can still swim with whales during behind-the-scenes safety training exercises.
The move is the latest in SeaWorld's growing list of major announcements focusing on rebuilding the reputation of the company following the release of the popular and damning documentary Blackfish. Over the weekend, SeaWorld unveiled plans for larger killer whale habitats and pledged millions to help fund research. and according to WTVJ-TV in Miami, the company has also invested $70 million in installing lifting floors that could isolate whales quickly.