SeaWorld to End Current Orca Show in San Diego as New Legislation Seeks to Stop Killer Whale Captivity Entirely

A surprising turn from the aquatic theme park that follows some tough talk from local and national lawmakers.

image via (cc) flickr user brb_photography

It was revealed on Monday that SeaWorld plans to end its current killer whale show at their San Diego park. According to The San Diego Union Tribune, the popular theme park intends to phase out its current San Diego orca show by next year, in preparation for a reimagined orca exhibit in 2017. The announcement comes by way of documents which appeared online ahead of a webcast by CEO Joel Manby regarding the future of the company and its parks and properties, the Union Tribune reports.

SeaWorld’s pivot comes just days after California congressman Adam Schiff unveiled his “Orca Responsibility and Care Advancement Act of 2015”—a bill which would “amend the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 to prohibit the taking, importation, and exportation of Orcas and Orca products for public display, and for other purposes.” That bill, and others like it in the past, have been seen as stemming, in part, from the public outcry after SeaWorld’s practices in regards to Orca care and captivity were outlined in the highly critical (and critically acclaimed) 2013 documentary Blackfish. Manby’s tenure as head of SeaWorld comes as a result of previous CEO James Atchison’s resignation following Blackfish’s release, and the subsequent uproar caused by the film.

Monday’s report focuses solely on the company’s San Deigo park, which has been the focus of the most intense backlash since 2013. Gawker reports attendance there dropped nearly twenty percent in a single year following Blackfish’s release. What’s more, last month California’s Coastal Commission banned the breeding of orcas in captivity as a condition for the approval of SeaWorld San Diego’s plans for a $100 million dollar holding facility expansion—plans which are seen as part of an overall effort by the company to re-position itself as being more in tune with the needs of its animal charges. In February of this year, for example, SeaWorld Orlando announced they would stop allowing the public’s poolside feeding of dolphins.

While details are sparse regarding SeaWorld San Diego’s plans for its new orca exhibit, the Union Tribune reports it is slated to take place in a more natural-seeming environment, will be more educational-focused, and will have a “conservation message inspiring people to act.”

[via gawker, san diego union tribune]

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