SeaWorld San Diego to End Killer Whale Shows

Park will launch conservation-themed attraction in 2017 in its place

SeaWorld will stop its killer whale shows in San Diego next year Credit: Warner Brothers/Everett

Following years of controversy, SeaWorld in San Diego will phase out its killer whale show next year. It intends to introduce what the San Diego Union-Tribune describes as a "new orca experience," which will be more informative and take place in a more natural setting, in 2017. The new attraction will also promote a conservation message, according to The New York Times.

"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," the company's CEO John Manby said in a webcast Monday. "They want experiences that are more natural and experiences that look more natural in the environment."

He also added that the shift is "not universal across our properties." Moreover, the San Diego paper reports that he did not say whether or not the theme parks in Orlando and San Antonio would be considered for similar changes.

The decision to end the Shamu shows in San Diego comes following recent governmental scrutiny regarding the captive breeding of the sea mammals on both the state and federal level. It also follows increased consumer criticism sparked by the 2013 documentary Blackfish. During its media briefing, company spokespeople said they would continue to highlight what it considers to be humane practices in the park, and it will challenge legal rulings that could change the way it breeds the animals.

"An end to SeaWorld's tawdry circus-style shows is inevitable and necessary," PETA Foundation Director of Animal Law Jared Goodman told the Union-Tribune, "but it's captivity that denies these far-ranging orcas everything that is natural and important to them."

The Times quoted Manby as saying that the decision had nothing to do with criticism and that activists "aren't going to be pleased with anything we do."