SeaWorld to Shut Down Orca Shows in 2016

killer-whales-591130_1280Effective 2016, SeaWorld will be shutting down the orca shows that have become a hallmark of the amusement park, amid criticism from regulators and animal rights advocates.

SeaWorld announced Monday that it will be phasing out its “theatrical” killer whale show next year, and will be launching a “new orca experience” in 2016, where the whales will be shown off in a more “natural” setting than before.

“We start everything by listening to our guests and evolving our shows to what we’re hearing, and so far that’s what we’ve been hearing in California, they want experiences that are more natural and experiences that look more natural in the environment,” said SeaWorld CEO Joel Manby in a conference call with investors. He added, however, that the decision to take down the orca show is “not universal” across the amusement park’s properties. SeaWorld owns and operates a total of eleven parks, with two other parks – the ones in San Antonio and Orlando – holding orca shows, which typically involve the whales doing tricks and interacting with humans.

The decision will only see killer whale shows pulled from the San Diego park, and for many people, including some lawmakers, this is far from being enough. Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) said that he is planning to launch legislation to end captive orca shows across the United States, due to the “psychological and physical harm” done to the whales that “outweighs any benefits” from their public display.

SeaWorld has been scored recently for its allegedly exploitative treatment of animals, particularly killer whales. The 2013 documentary Blackfish took a look at how the park keeps captive orcas and the dangers park employees face as a result of this, resulting in damaged press relations, as well as reductions in park revenue and attendance.