SeaWorld ShowIn response to increased public criticism of the activity, as well as declining revenues at its three parks, SeaWorld is phasing out its killer whale show at SeaWorld San Diego. (The killer whales, or orcas, are the largest of oceanic dolphins.) In a wide ranging conference call last week with business analysts, Joel Manby, president and CEO of SeaWorld Entertainment Inc., made the announcement, indicating that the company will phase out the show in 2017. He indicated that its San Diego show, “One Ocean,” will be replaced with an “all new Orca experience” that will emphasize the “natural behavior of whales.”
Manby also said that the company will continue to spend heavily on a multimedia campaign to respond to its critics—a campaign that, by most accounts, seems to have checked a steady decline in annual visitor numbers. Attendance at SeaWorld’s collection of parks dropped 4.2 percent in 2014. But, following the multimedia campaign that emphasizes the company’s rescue, rehabilitation and return-to-the-wild efforts for sea animals, attendance fell only 0.4 percent in the most recent quarter.
The company has faced strong criticism in recent years by activists who charge that keeping the orcas in captivity is cruel and unnecessary. This criticism intensified in the wake of a 2013 documentary film, Blackfish, produced after a SeaWorld Orlando trainer was killed by one of the park’s killer whales
Also, some European tour operators have stopped selling packages that include the SeaWorld show. And last month, the California Coastal Commission recently ruled that the park must eventually end its killer whale breeding program and halt the transfer of new whales to the park. Such a condition would eventually put an end to the park’s most popular attraction. For the most part, the reaction to SeaWorld’s move from critics seems to have been restrained, with the consensus view suggesting that the company’s action was a good first start.