SeaWorld announced Monday, during a corporate webcast for investors, that its ending its killer whale shows in San Diego, Calif.
The presentation claims SeaWorld San Diego will phase out its killer whale show beginning in 2016, and in 2017 it will debut a new "orca experience" designed to provide an "informative and more natural setting" and a "conservation message inspiring people to act," according to ABC's San Diego affiliate KGTV.
Furthermore, SeaWorld said it would re-allocate a portion of the $100 million it had earmarked for the "Blue World" project, which was slated to open in 2018, and expected to triple the size of the existing orca enclosures.
The plan to gradually phase out the exhibit comes amid efforts at both state and federal levels to stop SeaWorld San Diego from breeding, selling, trading or transferring captive orcas, which would have effectively brought an end to the park's theatrical shows, reported The San Diego Union-Tribune. SeaWorld has already announced its intention to challenge a recent ruling by the California Coastal Commission to ban it from breeding its orcas as a condition of moving forward with the tank expansion projects.
It's noted that all of this only impacts events in San Diego, and not in some of its other 10 parks like San Antonio and Orlando. The reason for this is that since SeaWorld draws saltwater from Mission Bay for its killer whale pools, the usage of a marine resource gives the CCC a say over the animals who use it.
SeaWorld has suffered in the wake of the 2013 documentary "Blackfish," which raised questions about the treatment of its orcas, reported The Guardian. Since then, the company's shares have halved.
Likely stemming from the film, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank) announced on Friday his plans to introduce federal legislation that would ban the captivity of orcas.
SeaWorld Senior Corporate Affairs Officer Jill Kermes said the proposed legislation is misguiding, claiming that SeaWorld is 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," Kermes said.
"We have not captured a whale in the wild in 35 years - and we will not do so," Kermes continued. "Through our work with scientists, conservation leaders and the government, SeaWorld is ensuring that all animals in human care are treated with the dignity and respect they require and deserve."