SeaWorld Will Phase Out Killer-Whale Show in San Diego Park

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SeaWorld to phase out killer whale show
An orca whale performs during the One Ocean show at SeaWorld.Photo: K.C. Alfred/TNS

The 11 orcas housed at SeaWorld’s flagship park in San Diego will be the last killer whales in the state to perform choreographed routines for the cheering masses, the San Diego Union Tribune reports.

The announcement comes after a series of bruising campaigns by animal-rights activists, coupled with a ruling by the California Coastal Commission that calls for the company to stop breeding orcas. Just two weeks ago, SeaWorld vowed to fight the decision, but now the tides have turned. 

The San Diego park will now try to win back animal lovers with a new “orca experience” — no circusesque performance included. 

The company saw ticket sales drop after the release of the documentary Blackfish, which exposes animal abuse and neglect in the park’s killer-whale breeding program. The park responded with an aggressive $15 million campaign to counter the animal-cruelty narrative. The company has referred to the documentary as “propaganda” on a seaworldcares.org page titled “The Truth About Blackfish.” 

SeaWorld moved quickly today to bury the bad press spurred by the California Coastal Commission’s ruling — or what the company calls a “dubious decision” with “no legal basis” — by announcing plans to start this brand-new “orca experience” in 2017. SeaWorld has yet to file lawsuit, or even a formal complaint for that matter, over the commission’s ruling. 

Meanwhile, in RealWorld, as headlines buzz about the particulars of the San Diego breeding program, both San Antonio and Orlando parks will continue on with business as usual. There are 13 whales housed between the two locations. Tank expansions have been proposed for both parks, as well. Should SeaWorld file suit in California, it’s likely both efforts would pause until a ruling is determined. PETA’s director of Animal Law told the Orlando Sentinel that, despite Florida’s lax environmental protections, the group would “work tirelessly” to defeat the proposed expansion.

One U.S. lawmaker, Representative Adam Schiff, announced federal legislation to ban killer-whale breeding this past Friday. “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 in a statement. If the bill were passed, SeaWorld would have to develop a contraceptive for the orcas.