(SEAWORLD/WHALES) Following a storm of criticism from campaigners, including singer Harry Styles of UK boy band One Direction, SeaWorld recently announced it will no longer accept whales taken from the wild.

During a July concert in San Diego, home to the original SeaWorld park, the pop star urged the crowd to boycott the company.

In the video below, Styles asks One Direction fans, “Does anybody like dolphins?” With the audience screaming “Yes” in response, Styles advises, “Don’t go to SeaWorld.”

In just four words, the singer inspired much of his passionate fan base, who are now saying they will boycott the marine park.

SeaWorld quickly responded to the pop star’s comments with an open letter, stating the following:

“Dear Harry, we’ve seen a concert clip of you urging your fans not to visit SeaWorld. We want you to know we love dolphins too. We care for the animals in our parks like we would our own family.

“We are committed to making sure their lives are enriching and they are continually engaged socially, mentally and physically. And, we also care for animals in the wild.

“We invite you to see for yourself, and then decide based on facts. We are happy to open our doors, take you behind the scenes, and have our trainers and vets answer any questions you have.”

Harry Styles of One Direction performs on stage. Photo Credit: Getty
Harry Styles of One Direction performs on stage. Photo Credit: Getty

However, the investment bank Credit Suisse found there’s been a 400 percent increase in both publicity and negative commentary surrounding SeaWorld following Style’s comments in July.

The marine park’s social media mentions grew from approximately 500,000 to 2,500,000. Around 85 percent of which were negative commentary.

Allegations that a SeaWorld employee posed as an undercover PETA member also contributed to the park’s dwindling reputation.

Credit Suisse analysts reported:

“We believe two events were the main contributors to the 400% spike in mentions and 13% increase in negative commentary month-over-month. Namely, 1) allegations that a SeaWorld employee acted as an undercover member of activist group PETA and 2) One Direction lead singer, Harry Styles, urged all of his fans to boycott SeaWorld during a concert in San Diego.”

Credit Suiss estimates negative commentary for SeaWorld

Meanwhile, SeaWorld recently reported an 84 percent plummet in earnings during the second quarter of 2015.

The company’s profits have reportedly fallen from $74.2 million in 2012 to $49.9 million in 2014. But SeaWorld is making significant changes to try and save their already-tarnished image.

Earlier this month, the park announced it will no longer receive 18 beluga whales captured from the Russian arctic.

SeaWorld had been waiting for US government approval to import the whales, but the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) rejected the original application filed  by the Georgia Aquarium, which is currently appealing the decision in court.

Actress Isla Fisher gets a kiss from Nanuq. Photo Credit: Rigo Diaz/SeaWorld San Diego/Getty
Actress Isla Fisher gets a kiss from Nanuq. Photo Credit: Rigo Diaz/SeaWorld San Diego/Getty

“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.

“The Marine Mammal Protection Act supports the collection and importation of animals for public display in accredited zoological facilities, and SeaWorld’s decision on this matter does not in any way reflect judgment on those facilities leading or participating in this beluga whale conservation effort. Rather, it reflects an evolution in SeaWorld’s position since this project began more than eight years ago.”

Naomi Rose, a marine mammal scientist at the Animal Welfare Institute, said it was “astounded” by the company’s decision, describing it as an “unprecedented shift.”

“For them to publicly announce on their website that not only are they changing their position on these beluga whales, but also that it is in fact a change—an evolution—in their position, is a new precedent for them,” Rose said.

SeaWorld is still enduring heavy criticism from the release of the 2013 documentary, Blackfish, but Credit Suisse’s research shows the pop singer may have actually caused more damage to the company’s brand than the film.

What do you think? Is SeaWorld’s move too little too late? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

— Alisa Manzelli, exclusive to Global Animal

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