Austrade grants help Sea World sustain animal rescue during COVID-19

29 April 2022

Sea World is Australia’s premier marine park. Founded on Queensland’s Gold Coast in 1971, it is now one of Southeast Asia’s top marine conservation attractions.

Last year marked Sea World’s 50th anniversary. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic – and international travel bans – total visitor numbers since 1971 topped 50 million. 

Austrade’s Supporting Australia’s Exhibiting Zoos and Aquariums (SAEZA) Program has contributed to the park’s continued success.

The funds helped Sea World fulfill one of its most important roles during the lockdowns of 2020–21 – caring for marine animals and conducting world-class research through its Research and Rescue Foundation.

Whale rescues and animal surgery

Sea World has a global reputation for animal conservation. Rescue teams retrieve and rehabilitate sick and wounded marine animals, such as dolphins, whales, sea birds and sea snakes.

2021 was a busy year. Staff conducted 300 hours of animal surgery. They admitted 100 turtles for treatment. Whales rescues were some of the most challenging ever conducted. And staff co-ordinated sea clean-ups by 200 volunteers.

Austrade grants help Sea World during COVID-19

When pandemic travel restrictions impacted visitor numbers at Sea World, the SAEZA grants helped staff members keep their animals healthy and provide high-grade food. The park’s dolphins, for example, eat around 200 kilograms of fish per day.

The grant also sustained the animal rescue program, ensuring staff were able to free whales trapped in nets.

‘We would like to thank Austrade for their continued support throughout the pandemic,’ says Sea World General Manager, Sanjay Bhatia. ‘Without this grant, it would have been difficult for the industry to continue to provide high levels of care for the animals.’

Upgrading visitor infrastructure: a new trend

Today, Sea World is representative of an uplift in Australian tourism infrastructure, with a new visitor precinct featuring three additional rides. New Atlantis will open in September 2022.

A recent publication sets out Australia’s national strategy for long-term sustainable growth in the visitor economy. Austrade released THRIVE 2030 Strategy: The Re-Imagined Visitor Economy in April 2022. It projects a $230 billion tourism economy by 2030.

The Sea World upgrade is an example of the kind of infrastructure investment that will encourage greater visitor numbers, according to Austrade officials.

For example, Sea World’s accessible services make the park available to a broader range of visitors. Upgrades include sensory guides for attractions, accessibility facilities, wheelchair hire and animals that assist visitors.

More information

Austrade’s $139.6 million Supporting Australia's Exhibiting Zoos and Aquariums program began in April 2020 and ends 30 June 2022. It has helped to sustain wildlife at multiple zoos, wildlife parks and aquariums across Australia.

For more information, contact

Learn more about Austrade's other tourism initiatives.