Several months after SeaWorld stated its intention to have the San Diego location phase out orca-centric shows at the park, the organization has announced a new company-wide focus to end both the traditional theatrical killer whale shows and breeding of the orcas.
SeaWorld made the official announcement on Thursday, billing these changes as “new vision for SeaWorld that will help us deliver on our mission that every guest who walks through our doors will be inspired to take action to help protect wild animals and wild places.”
The main shifts going forward include an end to captive breeding of orcas — the orca whales currently living at SeaWorld locations will be the last ones to do so. These killer whales at SeaWorld will not be kept in sea cages or let loose into the ocean because, “they could not survive in oceans to compete for food, be exposed to unfamiliar diseases or to have to deal with environmental concerns.”
This final generation of killer whales at these parks will also no longer be shown off to parkgoers via traditional shows. Instead, SeaWorld promises to “introduce new, inspiring, natural orca encounters rather than theatrical shows, as part of our ongoing commitment to education, marine science research and the rescue of marine animals.” This initiative includes revamping the current show pools and viewing areas into “a more naturalistic setting,” where guests will still have a chance to watch the orcas. The first park to receive this change will be the San Diego location next year, followed by San Antonio, Texas and then Orlando, Florida in 2019.
SeaWorld previously announced the phasing out of orca shows at its San Diego location in November with plans to introduce a new show in 2017. Those plans also included the focus “more on the natural setting” but did not pertain to the other SeaWorld locations. In the years since the 2013 documentary Blackfish, which explored the effects of captivity on orca whales, SeaWorld faced a fall in both ticket sales and reputation after originally calling the film “propaganda.“
For more on SeaWorld’s plans, including a partnership with The Humane Society of the United States, at SeaWorld’s official announcement page.