November 9, 2015
SeaWorld To Phase Out Orca Show In 2016

SeaWorld has announced plans to phase out the orca show at their San Diego amusement park in 2016. Although the park will still house killer whales, the new display will focus on conservation as opposed to entertainment.

The information was made available in the company's November 9 Investor/Analyst Day Presentation, which was published as a PDF at SeaWorldInvestors.com.

According to the document, SeaWorld's San Diego, California, location will "phase out [the] theatrical killer whale show," and replace it with a "new orca experience," which will debut in 2017.

SeaWorld Entertainment did not disclose specific details about the new orca experience. However, according to the presentation, the new display will feature an "informative and more natural setting." The new orca experience will also promote the conservation of marine mammals, including killer whales.

The decision to phase out the popular orca show was likely sparked by controversy surrounding the amusement park's treatment of marine mammals.

Animal rights activists have been speaking out against SeaWorld, and their treatment of dolphins and whales, for decades. However, the 2013 documentary film, Blackfish, brought international attention to the amusement park's use of marine mammals in live shows.

At the heart of Blackfish is an orca named Tilikum. As stated in the controversial film, the infamous killer whale was captured off the coast of Iceland in 1983.

Over the next 27 years, Tilikum was directly responsible for the deaths of three people. Although the first incident occurred at the now defunct Sealand, two of the victims were killed at SeaWorld amusement park.

Although it is impossible to know why Tilikum killed three people, the film suggests SeaWorld's marine mammals are under a great deal of stress -- as they are taken out of their natural environment and forced to live, and perform, in captivity.

As reported by WDC, SeaWorld currently has 24 orcas in their three United States marine mammal parks. The company also has at least four orcas in their Loro Parque, which is located in Spain.

Although killer whales can be trained to perform, and often draw large audiences, they simply do not thrive in captivity.

In their natural habitat, orcas travel an estimated 100 miles each day. SeaWorld's tanks are generally quite large. Unfortunately, they are no substitute for the open sea.

Animal rights activists contend the stress of living in a confined tank leads to aggression, dorsal fin collapse, broken bones, and premature death.

Following the release of Blackfish, SeaWorld and other marine mammal amusement parks experienced a marked decline in attendance. Despite numerous campaigns in defense of their marine mammal program, SeaWorld has not recovered from the backlash.

In their recent presentation, SeaWorld entertainment confirmed their ongoing commitment to deflecting the negativity surrounding their marine mammal program.

In a section titled "Getting the Facts Out," the company suggests five positive points about their killer whale program.

According to the presentation, SeaWorld has not "collected a killer whale from the wild in more than 35 years." They also contend that they keep calves and the mothers together as long as possible.

SeaWorld is also promoting the fact that their "world-class" killer whale care ensures the marine mammals are "healthy and thriving," and that they "live as long as those in the wild."

Animal rights activists may disagree with the company's assessment of the whales' condition and health. However, the live shows have always been a major point of contention.

Although the amusement park does not have plans to return the killer whales to their natural habitat, SeaWorld executives confirmed the orca show will be phased out at the San Diego park in 2016. The presentation did not discuss the status of orcas at the company's other 4 parks.

[Image via Irina Silvestrova / Shutterstock.com]