Cartmill continued to lead protests at SeaWorld until 2007 when their entrance road was reconfigured and relocated further from public view.
"We moved to be closer to the entrance, but were told we needed to return to the street," Cartmill said, adding that in 2010 she sued SeaWorld for violation of free speech rights under threat of arrest, even though the park is city-owned property. A decision is expected early spring 2015.
For more than 20 years, SDAA was the predominant animal rights group to demonstrate at SeaWorld. In recent years, Cartmill stepped aside as organizer and instead joined protests led by younger activists where she said support continues to grow and continues to affect SeaWorld's bottom line.
"When I attended a protest at SeaWorld on October 26 I remarked to a friend how many approving hoots and honks and thumbs up we get now, compared to years ago when we constantly heard ‘Get a life!' or ‘We love Shamu' and the ever-popular ‘Communists!'" she recalled. "Really, that was a common insult hurled at us in early days - and, of course, the middle-finger salute. You rarely see that anymore, almost never."
Cartmill said the biggest change has been since the release of the film "The Cove," which revealed the atrocities of the dolphin slaughter in Taiji and the links to the captivity industry.
"Then after 'Blackfish' the cheers for the demonstrators accelerated even more," she said. "Back in 1984 people simply didn't know or understand what went on behind the scenes. Now many people do."
Cartmill credits two factors with increased turnout for protests: CNN's decision to broadcast Blackfish repeatedly, and social media, especially Twitter and Facebook.
"In the old days I would get on the phone and send a mailing out weeks in advance," she said. "Now they can get a demonstration going the same day. I was at a protest last Sunday at SeaWorld and there was a gal in her early twenties and we mentioned how long we had been protesting. She was astonished to hear we had been doing it for 30 years."
Cartmill explained that SeaWorld has an opportunity to reinvent itself by moving away from the captivity model, and focusing on rehabilitation as it did so successfully in April 1998 with JJ, a gray whale calf found stranded, then transported to SeaWorld by a private citizen.
As JJ gained weight she outgrew her tank which left SeaWorld no choice but to release her. Cartmill remembers the excitement as news crews and hundreds of people followed JJ being transported to the water's edge and taken two miles out and gently lowered into the ocean.
"There was much fanfare, and popular approval like never before," Cartmill said, adding that if SeaWorld became a rehabilitation and educational facility, it could also offer "dazzling, aquatic-themed rides and interactive exhibits - animatronics, holographs, and other high-tech wizardry."
While Cartmill has been critical of SeaWorld she says worse yet are smaller venues such as Miami Seaquarium, Gulfarium, Dolphin Research Center and Dolphins Plus in Florida.
The only hope to improve conditions, she explained, is for people to get involved. If they aren't comfortable with protesting, Cartmill says they can wear t-shirts bearing an animal rights message, write letters to Congress or join an animal rights group.
"There are a number of things you can do, but don't be silent," she said. "It's hard for people, and it's hard for me. I hate public speaking but I've been doing it now for more than 30 years."