SeaWorld said Monday it would phase out its killer whale show at its San Diego park next year – an announcement that comes ahead of proposed federal legislation that would seriously regulate the organization’s interactions with captive and wild orcas.
No mention was made of killer whale shows at SeaWorld’s parks in San Antonio and Orlando.
Monday’s announcement was part of a new strategy to combat criticism leveled at the theme park in the wake of the 2013 documentary “Blackfish,” which condemned SeaWorld for its treatment of Orcas.
The documentary has led to a slippage in SeaWorld’s attendance numbers and, more recently, the Orlando-based company missed Wall Street expectations for its reported third-quarter earnings on Thursday. The company’s stock has climbed slightly more than five percent overall during the last year, however.
While SeaWorld said the familiar killer whale show would be gone, its replacement in 2017 was vaguely described as a new orca experience that will be “informative” and carry a “conservation message inspiring people to act,” according to the San Diego Union-Tribune.
But even if the aquatic giant didn’t act, changes were likely in store for SeaWorld.
Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Burbank, is planning to introduce federal legislation prohibiting breeding captive orcas, stopping the capture of wild orcas and ending the import and export of orcas, the Union-Tribune reported.
Schiff said he will introduce the Orca Responsibility and Care Advancement Act to ensure that orcas now at aquatic parks such as SeaWorld are the last ones and that when they die, no other whales will replace them.
"The evidence is very strong that the psychological and physical harm done to these magnificent animals far outweighs any benefits reaped from their display," Schiff said at a news conference in Santa Monica.
SeaWorld says its whales are thriving and the parks foster understanding of the animals.
"While efforts to phase out whales in human care may strike an emotional chord, SeaWorld and other science-based organizations are part of the solution, not the problem," Jill Kermes, a spokeswoman for SeaWorld Entertainment, said in a statement.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.