SeaWorld have announced they will get rid of their famous Orca shows at the San Diego theme park by the end of 2016. Bowing to pressure from protests and a decline in attendance, profits and the company’s share price, they are making way for an all-new “Orca experience” in 2017.
Words: Eireann Beardon, Subeditor: Grace Faulkner
The change comes amid growing concerns for the welfare, treatment and breeding of their Orcas. Joel Manby, SeaWorld CEO, says he has listened to his guests and is acting on their opinions. On announcing the idea he said: “In 2017 we will launch an all new orca experience focused on natural setting [of whales]. 2016 will be the last year of our theatrical killer whale experience in San Diego.”
Although being a little short on what exactly the new Orca attractions will entail, as well as focusing on a more natural setting, it will try to recreate a “natural environment and also the natural behaviours of the whale” with a “strong conservation message.”
The news comes one month after the huge milestone for animal rights protestors when California’s Costal Commission approved SeaWorld’s Blue World Project and it’s massive tank expansion – but banned the breeding of captive Orcas. The new tank will seek to recreate the ocean, and was probably created by public pressure after a photo went viral showing the size difference of the car park and the tank where the Orcas live (the car park was VERY big.)
Attendance to the park has been falling fast since the release of the 2013 documentary Blackfish which details the parks’ treatment of Orcas following the death of a trainer who was pulled underwater and drowned by a distressed whale. The documentary hit SeaWorld where it hurt: attendance reduced by 17% last year, its share prices have halved and the Guardian have reported that its profits have plunged by 84%.
Celebrities such as Matt Damon, Russell Brand and Jackass’ Steve-O have helped bring the animal right’s issue to SeaWorld’s young target audience. Boycotts of the parks took place nationwide and it started an international debate. Steve-O in particular was heavily involved with the protest resulting in him being jailed for 30 days, after live-streaming the crane climb to his Facebook page.
It is worth noting that the end of the theatrical Orca show is specific to its San Diego park and “not universal” across its 11 other parks in the U.S. Killer whale theatrical shows are seemingly going to continue at SeaWorld’s Florida and Texas parks, where the shows remain a major attraction.