The flagship orca whale show at SeaWorld’s San Diego marine life amusement park will be phased out by 2016 following years of public scrutiny over the company’s treatment of its mammals.
According to the San Diego Tribune, the decision to end the controversial ‘Shamu’ shows was announced in an online document, but it has since been taken down from the company’s website.
Instead of the trained shows, the San Diego park will introduce a new orca experience in 2017 that centres around conservation and educating visitors.
Last year, the company also announced it would spend $100 million on building Blue World – an expansion project to double the size of the current living environments of the orcas at San Diego by 2018. Park attendees will be able to walk on a beach-like environment, walk alongside the orcas as if they were at shore.
The Tribune reports that a portion of the budget for Blue World will be spent for the new education-focused experience.
SeaWorld’s attendance and revenues have been in decline since the 2013 release of the activist-created documentary Blackfish, which raised questions about the park’s treatment of its mammals with specific focus on the orca whales.
The company has not indicated whether orca whale shows at its two other parks in Orlando, Florida and San Antonio, Texas will be phased out.
SeaWorld’s new direction could potentially be exclusively for its San Diego park, which has suffered the brunt of the attendance declines. In early-October, California’s state government approved the company’s Blue World project with the condition that it is no longer able to breed any of the 11 orcas it holds captive. The new breeding ban would force SeaWorld to end its shows regardless.
In July 2014, the Vision Vancouver-dominated Vancouver Park Board approved a motion to ban both the natural and artificial breeding of dolphins and whales at the Vancouver Aquarium. But Aquarium staff have argued that all breeding of cetaceans is natural and ‘banning’ them from breeding would be cruel.
Following the November 2014 civic election, the newly elected Non-Partisan Association majority in the Park Board vowed to reverse the bylaw banning the Aquarium’s cetaceans from breeding.
The Aquarium took a major shift in 1996 by becoming the first and only aquarium in the world to make a commitment to no longer capture cetaceans from the wild for display. Since then, the not-for-profit organization’s work has largely revolved around research, conservation, education, and rescue and rehabilitation.
No orca whales have been kept in captivity at the Aquarium since 2001.