SeaWorld received a subpoena as a part of a federal probe from regulators investigating statements made by executives which include comments about the Blackfish documentary and the confinement of orcas.
The 53-year-old, marine theme park faced significant backlash after the eye-opening documentary Blackfish investigated the effect of captivity on killer whales and other animals. Now, SeaWorld is being investigated by the U.S. Department of Justice and Securities and Exchange Commission. According to a report from Bloomberg from a filing made on Friday, they are "investigating disclosures and public statements by executives, including comments about the Blackfish documentary" before and during the month of August in 2014. SeaWorld said in a statement that they are cooperating with the investigation. A special committee of independent directors, with independent legal counsel, has been appointed by their board to deal with the matter.
Why August 2014 specifically? Because SeaWorld's operator reported a 33% drop in share prices on a single day that month. They blamed the scrutiny and backlash on Blackfish, which had been released the year prior, to be the reason behind the financial instability.
As suggested in the documentary, activists have said that it is inhumane to keep the large, marine animals in such small enclosures suggesting they be kept at sea in pens instead. In response to their comments and the public reaction to Blackfish, SeaWorld has made plans to change a number of their practices. This includes redesigning their shows to focus on depicting animals in their natural habitats rather than having them perform tricks. Additionally, they have announced an end to their orca-breeding program.
According to the filing, the chairman of SeaWorld, David D'Alessandro, offered to resign in the wake of a separate controversy involving incentive payments earlier this month but will instead stay on through the end of the year at the decision of the other board members.