After facing criticism from government groups and animal rights activists about its treatment of captive orcas, The San Diego Union-Tribune reports that SeaWorld is moving to phase out its killer whale show in San Diego through next year. According to a company announcement, a new orca show will launch in 2017 that focuses instead on conservation efforts, one way the park can fight back against its opponents.
BREAKING: SeaWorld executive says orca shows at San Diego park will end by 2017, cites customer feedback.— The Associated Press (@AP) November 9, 2015
SeaWorld is on the defensive
Though the killer whale show is the park's flagship, SeaWorld is already on the defensive where its orcas are concerned. The 2013 documentary Blackfish exposed the stress killer whales experience during breeding — the kind of stress that resulted in the deaths of trainers. That, combined with repeat broadcasts on CNN, resulted in falling attendance. Since then, SeaWorld had allocated $100 million to its Blue World project, which expands the tank space for the animals to improve their lives. After the California Coastal Commission put restrictive conditions on the project last month, money set aside for Blue World may be pushed into the new conservation attraction.
However, SeaWorld's San Diego park — where much of the criticism is centered — was the only location mentioned in the document. The company's two other parks in San Antonio and Orlando were not named, though it's possible the new effort applies to them. We've reached out for comment.