After leading SeaWorld for three years, SeaWorld CEO Joel Manby will step down, effective immediately.
The decision came after fourth-quarter results showed a declining attendance – a 2.7 percent loss from the same time last year, to be exact, with 4.26 million attending the various SeaWorld parks. It also showed a decline of 5.5 percent in full-year attendance from 2016 to 2017, according to Business Insider.
In a press release
, Manby "agreed that this is the right time to identify a new CEO as the Company enters its next phase of intensified focus on execution and growth."
SeaWorld has seen a steady decline in attendance since the release of the documentary Blackfish
, which exposed some of the cruelties shown to orcas at the parks.
"Over the past three years, Joel has worked tirelessly to strengthen SeaWorld's position as a company that combines entertainment, education, and its important mission to protect marine life and the oceans. Our improving fourth quarter and positive year-to-date trends give us confidence that the steps we have taken position us well for 2018," current Chairman of the Board Yoshikazu Maruyama said in a statement.
Under Manby's watch, the troubled orca Tilikum died
, SeaWorld ended their controversial orca breeding program
, the company laid off a significant portion of the staff
, and they transitioned their animal shows into a more "infotainment
In the meantime, Chief Parks Operations Officer John T. Reilly will be acting CEO until an outside consulting firm finds a permanent replacement.