Faced with mounting public and regulatory pressure over its treatment of killer whales, SeaWorld officials announced today they plan to phase out the popular Shamu shows at its San Diego park.
SeaWorld Entertainment CEO Joel Manby made the announcement during a webcast for investors, saying the shows will be replaced with a conservation- oriented orca exhibit beginning in 2017. The new exhibit will be built partially with funds that had been earmarked for a $100 million “Blue World” expansion of the park’s orca tanks.
According to a presentation prepared for investors, the theatrical whale show in San Diego will be phased out next year, and the new “orca experience” will have a “conservation message inspiring people to act.”
SeaWorld has suffered dipping attendance since the release of the documentary film “Blackfish,” which focused on the treatment of orcas at the park.
The San Diego theme park took another hit last month when the California Coastal Commission approved the “Blue World” expansion of its killer whale exhibit but ordered an end to the breeding of captive orcas at the park. That ban would also eventually phase out the Shamu exhibit.
SeaWorld officials said they plan to challenging the commission’s ruling.
On Friday, Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Burbank, announced plans to introduce legislation that would ban the captivity of orcas.
Jill Kermes, senior corporate affairs officers for SeaWorld Entertainment, said the proposed legislation is misguided, saying SeaWorld and
other science-based groups “are part of the solution, not the problem.”
“Killer whales at SeaWorld are healthy and thriving and through conservation and rescue efforts as well as significant work to advance the
scientific understanding of orcas and other marine mammals, Sea World is a leader in protecting and preserving these species,” Kermes said.
“We have not captured a whale in the wild in 35 years — and we will not do so,” Kermes said. “Through our work with scientists, conservation leaders and the government, SeaWorld is ensuring that all animals in human care are treated with the dignity and respect they require and deserve.”