SeaWorld San Diego will replace their controversial killer whale performances with an 'orca experience'. Which isn't the 'phasing out' we were led to believe...
SeaWorld’s chief executive Joel Manby has announced that their controversial killer whale show will be phased out by 2016 and replaced with one that’s more focused on seeing them in their ‘natural setting’.
SeaWorld currently has 24 killer whales – also known as orcas – in captivity at three of its parks in Texas, California and Florida but the recent announcement only applies to the theatrical shows at their San Diego park.
Visitor numbers have fallen across all 11 SeaWorld parks in the US in recent years, and the company’s shares have dropped by 37 per cent since the critically acclaimed Blackfish documentary was released in 2013. It argued that keeping orcas in captivity makes them violent and neurotic and decreases their life span, but SeaWorld has called the accusations inaccurate and misleading.
In a statement on their website, Manby says, ‘The main point is we are listening to our guests. We’re evolving as a company. We’re always changing and, again, always evolving. That means that 2016 will be the last year of our theatrical killer whale experience called One Ocean.
‘In San Diego, in 2017 we will launch our all-new orca experience. It’s going to be focused more on the natural setting, natural environment and also the natural behaviours of the whales.’
It’s not clear exactly what the new ‘orca experience’ will involve, but the company has said it will inform guests about whale conservation and how they can join SeaWorld’s efforts to help orcas in the wild.
But they have confirmed that these plans are only meant for the San Diego park, leaving the fate of their other orcas in Texas and Florida unclear.
Chris Butler-Stroud, the chief executive of Whales and Dolphins Conservation UK says, ‘All we’re really suspicious of is that this is just a repackaging of the show to get round some of the bad PR they’ve been experiencing over the last few years.’