Buying Seafood & Marine Pollution: SeaWorld is Against Conservation Efforts


By: Jordan Schulte

On the SeaWorld and Busch Garden’s conservation website their mission clearly states the following, “Our mission is to work with purpose and passion on behalf of wildlife and habitats worldwide.” Apparently Mission Bay is an exception. SeaWorld is a known polluter of Mission Bay in San Diego, California. The bay has been on California’s list of impaired water bodies for several years because it does not meet the Clean Water Act standards. Clean Water Act violations against SeaWorld began surfacing in the year 2004 when several shocking complaints had been made public. In the year 2000 SeaWorld’s water quality permit was violated eight consecutive times within a six month period. It was violated again in the year 2002.

Very little was reported after the initial publication of this information in 2004 until an interesting, but not surprising, story emerged. Earlier this year (2012) SeaWorld was cited again for exceeding Mission Bay effluent limits. The California Regional Water Control Board cited SeaWorld for two violations, one that had occurred in the year 2011 and one that had occurred this year (2012). As if that wasn’t enough, the California Regional Water Control Board also brought forth more shocking information. The agency states the following, “Since April 13, 2005, there have been numerous violations of effluent limitations at the facility, including three exceedances of Ammonia, six exceedances of Enterococcus, and one exceedance of Total coliform. Furthermore, there have been multiple months in which required sampling was not reported. The constituents not sampled have included pH, Total coliform, Fecal Coliform, Enterococcus, and Total Residual Chlorine.” San Diego Park’s communications director David Koontz commented, “Exceedences in conjunction with our water discharge permit are very infrequent and have never had a detrimental impact to the overall health of Mission Bay. We take our environmental responsibility very seriously and are proud to be excellent stewards of Mission Bay.”

Mr. Koontz is either not aware of the level in which SeaWorld pollutes Mission Bay, or he is deliberately misinforming the public. He claims that SeaWorld’s violations have been “infrequent,” even though the corporation has been cited for pollution dozens of times within the past 12 years. Mr. Koontz’s comment directly contradicts the records in possession of the California Regional Water Control Board.

He also claims that SeaWorld does not impact the health of Mission Bay. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case. The San Diego Pollution Program Manager, Donna Frye, says this about the health of the bay, “For too long, the city has failed to protect the natural resources of Mission Bay. Almost every day, one or more areas of Mission Bay is posted with signs warning of unsafe levels of bacteria. Mission Bay does not support its beneficial uses and is listed as an impaired water body due to coliform bacteria. This problem can no longer be ignored.” The bay is also on the top ten list of California’s most polluted beaches. To say that SeaWorld has no responsibility for the pollution of Mission Bay is entirely false since SeaWorld is the largest discharger of water into the bay.

Environmentalists are also on high alert because of SeaWorld’s nightly fireworks over Mission Bay. Some are concerned that the debris falling into the bay and surrounding waterways could be harming wildlife. Forced into compliance, SeaWorld had to file for a permit in order to keep the firework show running. Thank goodness the San Diego Coastkeeper and environmentalists work to clean up SeaWorld’s pollution. For a corporation that carries a “conservation” image I find it difficult to accept that SeaWorld directly pollutes Mission Bay. This is the very opposite of conservation and I urge everyone who supports SeaWorld to consider this.

SeaWorld is a park that is filled with award winning restaurants serving a wide variety of dishes. From hotdogs to lobster bisque. From fillet mignon to chicken nuggets. As a corporation that carries a title of “conservation,” where do they acquire their food?

Right now, I’d like to focus on SeaWorld’s decision to sell seafood in their restaurants (as ironic as it seems). In 2008 the corporation began purchasing their seafood from fisheries certified by either the Marine Stewardship Council or the Aquaculture Certification Council in an effort to be more environmentally friendly. Both the Marine Stewardship Council and the Aquaculture Certification Council are international, nonprofit organizations that strive to promote sustainable, environmentally responsible commercial fishing, fish farms and processing plants. Or so they say. Excited about SeaWorld’s new pursuit I decided to look into the two organizations from which they obtain their certified seafood. The information I found was interesting.

The Marine Stewardship Council has been under alot of fire recently because of their decision to certify certain fisheries. The South Georgian Chilean sea bass fishery was re-certified by the MSC. The decision had environmentalists in an uproar. The level of the Chilean sea bass population has been falling due to illegal overfishing, yet still the MSC gives the fishery their seal of approval. British Columbia’s Fraser River sockeye salmon fishery was certified by the MSC. Daniel Pauly, renowned marine scientist, author, and the principal investigator at the University of British Columbia’s Fisheries Centre, said this about the decision, “I almost choked when I heard that they were planning to certify Fraser River sockeye. The population is in freefall.” He went on to say that a core principle in conservation is that, when there is doubt, certifiers must err on the side of caution. “If not, what the hell is the MSC all about?” Three of the Fraser’s genetically distinct salmon populations are endangered, and one other is critically endangered, but that doesn’t stop the fishery from harvesting unsustainable populations. The MSC has also certified the Ross Sea Antarctic toothfish fishery. This certification really had people scratching their heads. The fishery is considered “exploratory” by scientists. Meaning the species is not thoroughly researched and whether the population can sustain themselves or not is unknown. Pollock stock levels have fallen 64%. Pacific hake have suffered an 89% fall in stock levels. Yet the MSC keeps handing out certifications left and right to fisheries that continue to harm these populations.  Richard Page, a GreenPeace campaigner went as far to say this about the MSC, “consumers are being duped. They think they are buying fish that are sustainable and can eat them with a clean conscience.” While Chris Pincetich, a marine biologist with the Turtle Island Restoration Network, said, “The MSC has rushed to accept applications from hundreds of fisheries around the globe in order to grow their business and network. Many of those are actually viewed by scientists as unsustainable. They should really take a closer look before they even engage with those fisheries.”

The Aquaculture certification council is not much better. The council is said to be an industry that regulates itself. The Mangrove Action Project even claimed that the council is using standards developed by the shrimp industry. The Mangrove Action Project also objects to the Aquaculture Certification Council’s claims of sustainability.

Walmart recently began selling strictly Aquaculture certified seafood. Mcdonalds has also mentioned upgrading their own policies when it comes to their suppliers. The switch to better sustained seafood is being adopted by many large organizations. When you can go to Walmart or Mcdonalds to purchase MSC or Aquaculture certified seafood, the change by SeaWorld doesn’t seem so righteous.  Especially when you consider the values behind the certification organizations and whether or not they are truly certifying fisheries for the sake of “conservation.”

Greenpeace, a highly respected conservation organization says this about fisheries, “A variety of seafood certification schemes have developed over the past decade, all claiming that the fish that they certify have been sustainably caught or farmed and that they are the best option for consumers to purchase. Greenpeace is of the opinion that no fully credible certification program for sustainable wild-caught or farmed seafood currently exists. So far, the challenges facing our oceans are far from being tackled and the fundamental principles of precaution and ecosystem approach are not yet incorporated into fisheries management.”

SeaWorld claims that “Over-fishing is negatively impacting the entire balance and health of our oceans.” and that this is an issue that “keeps them up at night.” they claim that they are “striving to ensure that as many people as possible are aware of this issue and equipped with timely, reliable information on responsible seafood choices.” Yet SeaWorld is purchasing their seafood from suppliers certified by an organization with evidence against their supposed “conservation” efforts. Personally I believe that if SeaWorld cared about over-fishing and conservation, they wouldn’t sell seafood in their parks. If you support SeaWorld, please consider this information.

More recent information:, SeaWorld sponsored a fishing tournament on the 26th of July, where people could fish for threatened species including bluefin tuna. They also hosted a banquet afterwards at SeaWorld’s Hubbs research headquarters at Mission Bay -y’know the same place where they have been fined for repeated toxic dumping. –End KillerWhaleCaptivity.

You can read more from Jordan here on Tumblr.

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