SeaWorld trainers no longer ‘surfing’ on dolphins

San Diego park to phase out show with trainers riding on dolphins’ rostrums

SeaWorld prepares defense in class action suit over 'Blackfish'

ORLANDO, Fla. – SeaWorld Entertainment theme parks no longer include shows where trainers “surf” on dolphins and plan to end the final show during which trainers stand on bottlenose dolphins’ faces, or rostrums, according to a letter from the company’s attorneys in response to shareholders resolution introduced by animal rights group PETA.

The decision was revealed in a letter this month from SeaWorld attorneys to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission after PETA, which owns shares of SeaWorld stock, introduced a 2020 shareholder resolution “to prohibit trainers from standing on dolphins’ faces and riding on their backs at SeaWorld,"

In the letter, SeaWorld attorneys said, “the company no longer demonstrates 'surfing’ at any of its locations, and plans to phase out the demonstration of standing on rostrums within the next few months, despite its belief that neither of these behaviors are harmful to the animals in any way.”

SeaWorld’s attorneys also took PETA to task in their letter calling the proposal “misleading” and “unclear” partially because of the language used.

“First, it is not clear which animal the Proposal refers to, as the term “dolphin” is broad and includes forty different species of aquatic mammals, including orcas,” SeaWorld attorneys wrote.

Based on the photos PETA submitted with their proposal, SeaWorld determined they were referring to bottlenose dolphins.

Additionally, SeaWorld says bottlenose dolphins don’t have a “face” but what is known as a “rostrum” which they use for digging, “carrying conch shells and probing the ocean floor for fish,” according to the letter.

“The rostrum serves a different function to a face, and there is no literature to suggest that standing on the rostrum is harmful in any way to the animal,” the letter states.

Out of the 140 dolphins in the company’s care, less than 10 currently participate in a presentation during which trainers stand on the animals’ rostrums, according to SeaWorld. There are only two shows that include bottlenose dolphins, one at SeaWorld Orlando and one at SeaWorld San Diego, according to the letter, but only the San Diego show includes elements where trainers standing on the dolphins’ rostrums.

The company was already working to phase out these performances prior to the PETA proposal, according to SeaWorld.

SeaWorld sent a statement to News 6 regarding the letter about the PETA proposal and its animal presentations.

“SeaWorld is continually evolving its animal presentations to create the best experience for both guests and our animals. As an accredited zoological facility, our leadership solely determines the content and format of our presentations and is not influenced in any way by the actions of ill-informed activists, who are seemingly more interested in their profile and fundraising than they are the welfare of animals.”