Three years after the release of the 2013 documentary “Blackfish,” a critical portrayal of SeaWorld’s orca program that sparked an onslaught of negative publicity, SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment on Thursday announced it will end its orca shows and will shut down its orca breeding program.
The announcement was made in conjunction with the Humane Society of the United States, which noted that getting SeaWorld to end the orca breeding program and shows has been “a long-held goal of many animal-advocacy organizations.”
While the orcas live out their lives at SeaWorld, rather than use them in theatrical performances, SeaWorld will place them in orca exhibits that highlight the whales’ natural behaviors, rescue and rehabilitation efforts.
SeaWorld had already announced last year that it would phase out its orca show at its San Diego park in 2016, and will instead debut an orca experience in 2017 that will be focused on providing a more natural setting for guests to interact with orcas. Now that plan has been extended to the San Antonio and Orlando parks, which will follow suit in 2019.
SeaWorld has been struggling to repair its image and bottom line amid the negative publicity about its treatment of marine animals.
In addition to announcing the end of the orca shows, SeaWorld has partnered with the Humane Society to work toward curbing the commercial killing of whales, seals and other marine mammals as well as ending shark finning, and on efforts to protect coral reefs from overfishing.
The company said it will also serve sustainable seafood in the parks as well as as crate-free pork, cage-free eggs and more vegetarian options.