SeaWorld initially responded to Blackfish, a 2013 documentary about the detrimental effects captivity has on orca whales, by calling it “propaganda,” but that didn’t stop the film from negatively affecting ticket sales and the theme park’s reputation. And now, SeaWorld is phasing out the current orca-centric show at its San Diego location in response to feedback from park guests.
“The main point is we are listening to our guests,” a park representative said in a SeaWorld investors webcast Monday. “We are evolving as a company, we are always changing.”
This news comes on the heels of California congressman Adam Schiff’s recent announcement that he is introducing the Orca Responsibility and Care Advancement Act, a piece of legislation that would “phase out captive orcas so that their display ends with this generation.”
“The evidence is very strong that the psychological and physical harm done to these magnificant animals far outweighs any benefits reaped from their display,” Schiff said in a statement, referring to data suggesting that orcas in captivity have shorter life spans than their wild peers. “We cannot be responsible stewards of our natural environment and propagate messages about the importance of animal welfare when our behaviors do not reflect our principles.”
In response, SeaWorld issued a statement saying that, “While efforts to phase out whales in human care may strike an emotional chord, SeaWorld and other science-based organizations are part of the solution, not the problem.”
“Killer whales at SeaWorld are healthy and thriving and through conservation and rescue efforts as well as significant work to advance the scientific understanding of orcas and other marine mammals, SeaWorld is a leader in protecting and preserving these species,” the statement continued.
The statement is in line with SeaWorld’s recent efforts to show the public that they are, in their words, “part of the solution”: the official SeaWorld Twitter, for example, is filled with posts demonstrating the parks’ commitment to animal care and research (“Did you know #SeaWorld has not collected a #killerwhale in more than 35 years?” one tweet sent last week reads).
SeaWorld San Diego will replace its current orca show, titled One Ocean, with a new one set to debut in 2017 that will “be focused more on the natural setting” and have a “strong conservation message,” according to the webcast. The Orlando and San Antonio locations have not revealed any plans to phase out their own orca shows at this time.