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'Blackfish'-bruised SeaWorld pledges $1.5 million to conservation effort

'Blackfish'-bruised SeaWorld pledges $1.5 million to conservation effort

Orcas perform in the "One Ocean" killer whale show at SeaWorld San Diego.

(SeaWorld San Diego)

Still reeling from criticism over the treatment of its killer whales, SeaWorld Entertainment Inc. pledged $1.5 million to a sea life conservation effort.

The money, to be paid over the next three years, will go toward a grant program operated by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to "protect and restore coastal and marine habitats across the country," according to a statement Thursday from SeaWorld.

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Facing harsh criticism over the treatment of its killer whales, SeaWorld announced last year that it plans to double the size of its orca environment, contribute $10 million to research on the species and establish an independent advisory committee of scientists to oversee its orca program.

The criticism surged following the release in 2013 of the documentary "Blackfish," which accused SeaWorld of abusing and neglecting killer whales in the marine-themed parks.

The Orlando, Fla.-based company reported a slight drop in attendance in its most recent three-month earnings period, blaming it on bad weather in Texas, the timing of Easter this year and the criticism by animal rights groups.

In the three months that ended June 30, SeaWorld Entertainment reported profits of $5.8 million, down from $37.4 million in the same period last year.

Earlier this year, SeaWorld pledged another $1.5 million over three years to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation for a killer whale research and conservation program.

"We're excited to again partner with an organization that has an outstanding reputation for conserving ocean species and habitats," said Joel Manby, the recently hired president and chief executive of SeaWorld Entertainment.

To read more about travel, tourism and the airline industry, follow me on Twitter at @hugomartin.

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