One of Gold Coast’s most famous theme parks is celebrating a major milestone today.
Sea World turns 50 years old.
With more than 50 million visitors, 30,000 employees and 10,000 animal rescues since it opened its doors in 1971, Sea World has cemented its place in local history.
The park, which emerged as a water ski show in the late 50s, has undergone major changes in both name and location.
It was not until the 1970s that Sea World ventured out into the sea and renamed an amusement park showing dolphin shows, roller coasters and the “aqua ball”.
‘Part of our fabric’
Destination Gold Coast CEO Patricia O’Callaghan says the park has been a fundamental part of the Gold Coast since its inception.
“We are so proud of what they have contributed to our economy,” Ms O’Callaghan said.
“They are part of our social structure and we are so proud to celebrate this with them, especially after surviving what has been an awful 18 months.”
Major Events Gold Coast CEO Jan McCormick says the success of Sea World should inspire other local tourist attractions to aim high.
“I think from a business perspective, it’s really demonstrated to the city that we can get big, we can get bold,” Ms McCormick said.
“We can make it happen and all it takes is a lot of hard work and absolute commitment to what you deliver.”
‘Like a family’
What started as a weekend job for Mitchell Leroy has turned into a career that spans nearly four decades.
Now the curator of mammals and birds, Mr Leroy, says the park has always felt like a family.
Leroy plans to celebrate the milestone in Sea World and reflect on the people and animals he has worked with.
“Thinking of some of the wonderful, wonderful animals that I have used all my life,” he said.
More than 10,000 rescues of marine life have been carried out by Sea World’s team, including rescuing humpback whales from shark nets and turtles and dolphins from drum line.
Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries Mark Furner congratulated Sea World Rescue and its own Marine Animal Rescue Team (MART).
“Sea World does an excellent job, not only of conservation, but of enabling people to interact with marine life,” he said.
“I would like to commend them for the ongoing work on it [rescue] space… it is a shining light for what we see around the state. “
Sea World has completed two rescues of humpback whales entangled in the government’s own shark control equipment on the Gold Coast this season.
In August, the Sea World Rescue Team, along with MART, embarked on a daring two-day rescue mission to free a whale from a shark net.
Changing attitudes and controversies
The park has not been without controversy.
There have been protests in recent years where activists have called for stopping animals kept in captivity.
Sir. Leroy says Sea World is an accredited zoo and undergoes regular inspections from the Zoo and Aquarium Association.
“They look at whether the animal has good nutrition, good environment, good health,” he said.
“We are even hiring an outside contractor who runs her own animal welfare business and she will come down and evaluate our dolphin collection every year to make sure we reach those goals.”