SeaWorld announced on Monday that it would ‘phase out orca shows’ at its San Diego marine park by 2017. (Listen to WDC interview on BBC below).
The company has been under mounting pressure in recent years ever since the release of the film documentary Blackfish. Recent poor financial performance and the decision by the California Coastal Commission to only allow an expansion of its pools provided no further breeding took place have just added to its woes, while a multi-million dollar marketing campaign was widely criticized and celebrities such as Harry Styles have told fans not to visit the park.
Local paper, the San Diego Union Tribune reported on Monday that SeaWorld’s Shamu stadium would instead replaced by an “informative” experience designed to take place in a more natural setting that would carry a “conservation message inspiring people to act”.
Chief Executive Joel Manby has told investors that the company was listening to its visitors. However, orca shows will continue at SeaWorld’s other parks in Orlando and San Antonio, and WDC is concerned that the definition of ‘shows’ may well be not what everyone expects from this announcement, with SeaWorld still talking about orca’s leaping and jumping being a ‘natural’ behaviour.
Listen to WDC’s Chief Executive, Chris Butler-Stroud on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: