SeaWorld CEO Jim Atchison is set to step down in January, and the company has also reportedly cut 300 jobs following a sharp decline in park attendance and heaps of bad press following the release of Blackfish.

Jim Atchison Steps Down As SeaWorld CEO

News that Atchison was leaving his position as CEO was announced on Thursday, and many attribute the shake up to recent public outcry at the way the animal theme park treats their animals in captivity. More specifically, the documentary Blackfish, which explored the treatment of the parks’ treatment of orcas, sparked a movement to boycott the popular park. Needless to say, SeaWorld’s attendance has been suffering as a result of the controversy, something Atchison addressed last month.

“Clearly, 2014 has been a challenging year, but I am confident we are taking the necessary steps to address our near term challenges and position the company to deliver value over the long term,” Atchison said in a statement.

However, SeaWorld’s attendance has been declining since 2008, and revenues have reportedly gone down 8% since last quarter, so Blackfish cannot take all of the credit for the shift. Atchison will remain at the company as vice chairman of the board, with Chairman of the Board David D’Alessandro taking over as interim CEO.

Atchison has been awarded a severance package valued at $10.8 million. Atchison will leave his position as CEO with $2.56 million and will receive 515,406 shares of SeaWorld stock valued at $16 per share – totaling $8.2 million in value – if he continues to work for the company.

SeaWorld Cuts 300 Jobs

Following Atchison’s departure as CEO, a report has circulated that SeaWorld cut over 300 jobs on Friday, Dec. 12. According to the report, employees at all 11 SeaWolrd parks around the country will be let go as a result, and the job cuts will also affect those at the corporate level.

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