San Diego’s SeaWorld park just announced plans to phase out its theatrical “Shamu” show next year, following protests from animal rights groups about the treatment of the parks’ captive killer whales. By the end of 2016, the show will be replaced by an experience focused on mimicking the animals’ natural habitat. Those touched by the film Blackfish and those critical of the ethical considerations of keeping whales in captivity, however, are not likely to stop the momentum of their protests until the whales are back in their actual habitats.
Joel Manby, SeaWorld’s chief executive, reports that the decision is in direct response to the mounting criticism from consumers. “We are listening to our guests, evolving as a company, we are always changing,” he stated. The change also follows a unanimous vote in October by the California Coastal Commission in favor of expanding the San Diego park’s orca habitat and barring them from breeding any more whales in captivity. Currently the San Diego location has 11 killer whales.
At this time it is unclear what the new show will include, or whether SeaWorld’s other parks in San Antonio, Texas and Orlando, Florida will follow suit. Pressure on the corporation from groups and individuals passionate about ending the practice of marine life captivity has not let up since the release of the 2013 Blackfish documentary. And SeaWorld is feeling the effects of this outrage. The number of visitors dropped 17 percent last year and Manby warned investors that the company will likely take a $10 million hit this year. It seems that the company hopes to draw back consumers by giving them what they asked for – yet, they may be falling short of the message that orcas have no place in a marine park at all.