SeaWorld San Diego will end its killer whale shows at the end of next year. The move is a direct result of claims that the shows were contributing to animal cruelty.
Shows at the San Diego park will end not later than the end of 2016, said CEO Joel Manby, while a “new orca experience” will debut in 2017 with a “strong conservation message.”
According to Manby, customers attending the Southern California park don’t want to see the whales performing tricks. Instead, they want to experience a more “natural” experience.
The company may also have to end plans for a $100 million expansion after regulations said the plan could only move forward if SeaWorld officials promised not to breed any killer whales at the San Diego park.
“I’m not willing to put $100 million into a market when there’s regulatory questions,” Manby said.
SeaWorld for its part refuses to capture whales from the wild.
While theatrical shows will continue with killer whales at other parks, the San Diego location will become the exception.
The company continues to face negative publicity from the popular 2013 documentary “Blackfish” which showed the whales being placed under constant duress.
Since the release of Blackfish, SeaWorld has been experiencing declining attendance numbers.