SeaWorld has decided to change its decades-old practice. The company announced Monday that it plans to end the killer whale shows at its San Diego park next year. SeaWorld will launch a new program in 2017 that would be less about tricks and more about the whales’ natural behavior in the wild. The announcement comes just days after the Orlando, Florida-based company reported disappointing third-quarter results.
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Blackfish still haunts SeaWorld
The move comes after the company suffered almost two years of declining attendance. Attendance and revenues have been declining since the 2013 documentary Blackfish. The documentary showed SeaWorld’s treatment of killer whales and examined how the orcas respond to captivity. It also shed light on how a killer whale killed trainer Dawn Brancheau in 2010 by pulling her into a pool.
Animal rights activists hailed the company’s plans to end the traditional Shamu shows in San Diego, but they said SeaWorld needed to do more. For instance, the Humane Society of the United States asked the company to phase out the orca shows at all its theme parks, end the breeding program, and move the killer whales to more natural environments.
SeaWorld still holds orcas in captivity
Visitors had made it clear that they preferred seeing orcas act naturally instead of performing tricks. The new shows set to begin in 2017 will focus on the animal’s natural behavior and settings. California Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff said ending the shows was a good first step, but SeaWorld still holds whales in captivity, which affects their physical and psychological states.
SeaWorld’s San Diego location suffered the biggest drop in visitor attendance. The orca shows will continue at its other two parks in Orlando and San Antonio. As part of the plan, the company will build a hotel resort in San Diego in collaboration with the Evans Hotels Group. SeaWorld officials said the company will also encourage park visitors to do more for animals in the wild.