After controversy and protests over the conditions of killer whales at SeaWorld, the company announced Monday it would begin to phase out shows featuring the mammals at its San Diego park beginning next year, the San Diego Union Tribune reported. The company has faced criticism over its treatment of animals and said it would present a new orca experience in 2017.
The new experience was described as "informative" and offering a "conservation message inspiring people to act," according to a document posted online ahead of a company webcast. The announcement from SeaWorld Entertainment comes as CEO Joel Manby and other senior executives were expected to describe the company's new vision for its 11 parks, after efforts by the local and federal government have tried to end the captive breeding of orcas.
Manby, who was hired in March, said that part of the $100 million Blue World devoted to expanding the orca tanks would be used for the new experience, the Los Angeles Times reported. The company did not mention if it would end the shows at its other locations, including Orlando, Florida, and San Antonio.
"I am excited about the alternatives that we are coming up with, and we're definitely going to still hit the 2018 window on that," Manby said, according to CNBC.
— PETA (@peta) November 9, 2015
U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., said Friday he would introduce a bill to end the breeding of orcas in captivity, the capture of wild orcas, and their import and export. SeaWorld has said it would fight a ruling from California’s Coastal Commission to stop the breeding of its orcas. SeaWorld has 24 orcas among its three parks in the U.S.
SeaWorld’s change in policy over its well-known Shamu shows comes after the 2013 documentary “Blackfish” highlighted the conditions of animals at SeaWorld and raised questions over the animals and their work with trainers. SeaWorld has worked to improve its image with a marketing campaign, but park attendance revenue has fallen.
The company’s third-quarter results reported last week missed investor estimates, causing its stock to drop by 9 percent, CNBC reported.