SeaWorld announced significant changes in orca shows at its San Diego Park on Monday.
SeaWorld San Diego will phase out theatrical killer whale shows in 2016. The shows will be replaced with a new “orca experience” in 2017. SeaWorld Entertainment, Inc. CEO Joel Manby announced Monday the change that is part of a larger plan “evolving the guest experience.”
The Investor statement released Monday detailed:
The plan includes a new approach to in-park activities as well as greater connection to the company’s award winning television programming that highlights SeaWorld Entertainment’s world-class veterinary care and animal rescue operations.
SeaWorld has faced relentless assaults from legislators and special interests over its orca shows. Much of the controversy has been fueled by the 2013 movie Blackfish, which harshly criticized SeaWorld over keeping killer whales in captivity.
The company has faced challenges in decreased attendance and stock price drops since the release of Blackfish. Accusations heavily criticized the park in part of the death of trainer Dawn Brancheau. Brancheau’s family later pushed back against those accusations.
Perhaps the last straw was the California Coastal Commission’s approval of the park’s new Blue World orca habitat expansion project on the condition that the park can no longer breed killer whales in captivity, nor transfer any orcas into the park from other locations. The move is an eventual deathblow to orca shows and captivity at the park.
Left-wing organization PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) has repeatedly launched attacks against SeaWorld. The group spearheaded legal action to run anti-SeaWorld airport ads.
Attacks have also come from some California legislators determined to shut down orca shows at the park. Assembly Bill 2140, the Orca Welfare and Safety Act, was introduced in the wake of Blackfish. The measure was stalled in the state legislature, but was one among many similar moves to stifle San Diego park operations and shut down the captive breeding program and orca shows.
SeaWorld San Diego’s massive Blue work habitat expansion has been planned for years. While some have suggested that the project was a public relations exercise, representatives with the park have previously told Breitbart News that the project was in the works years before Blackfish was released.
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