SeaWorld will no longer accept 18 stolen Beluga whales from Russia following a year of negative press that peaked when the One Direction singer Harry Styles told fans to boycott the company.
SeaWorld had been waiting for the US government to approve the import of 18 whales, which normally live in the arctic. But the application, originally made by the Georgia Aquarium, was turned down by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
SeaWorld was due to received the whales from the Georgia aquarium, but it has released a statement saying it will no longer take them.
“SeaWorld has not collected a whale or dolphin from the wild in decades. To reaffirm that commitment, SeaWorld has informed the Georgia Aquarium that we will not accept any of the belugas listed on their NOAA Fisheries import permit application,” SeaWorld said in a statement on its website. The company added that the change of heart reflected an ‘evolution’ in its position since the company began.
SeaWorld has had a bad run in the press, starting with the controversial documentary Blackfish in 2013, which claimed to expose animal cruelty in the parks.
But research by the investment bank Credit Suisse has shown that One Direction's Harry Styles may have done more to damage SeaWorld’s reputation than the film.
Styles urged his fans to boycott SeaWorld during a concert in San Diego in July if they loved dolphins. His comments contributed to a 400 per cent spike in mentions and a 13 per cent increase in negative commentary month-over-month, Credit Suisse found.
A spokesperson from the Animal Welfare Institute said it was “astounded” by SeaWorld’s decision not to take the whales. “To our knowledge, this is the most significant clarification about SeaWorld’s policy on acquiring cetaceans from the wild,” the spokesperson said.
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