SeaWorld Will End Its Killer Whale 'Shamu Shows' by 2017

The company announced the change amid pressure to change its practices.

Jamie Lantzy / Flickr Creative Commons

SeaWorld has proclaimed it will be phasing out the traditional killer whale show currently held at its San Diego location, eventually replacing it with a different one.

SeaWorld Entertainment made the announcement Monday morning at a conference with investors. According to CEO Joel Manby, the current “One Ocean” Shamu show, which features the animals performing trained tricks, would continue into 2016 — but end by 2017 — transformed into a presentation that instead highlights natural behavior.

“We start everything by listening to our guests and evolving our shows to what we’re hearing,” said Manby at the forum, “and so far that’s what we’ve been hearing in California, they want experiences that are more natural and experiences that look more natural in the environment.”

However, no precise announcement was made concerning the future of orca shows at the company’s San Antonio and Orlando properties.

The plan to make over the customary “One Ocean” Shamu show comes at a time when legal efforts are underway with the goal of ending the capture of wild orcas — as well as the cessation of captive breeding of orcas — by SeaWorld. One opponent of the capture/breeding practice is the California Coastal Commission, which gave SeaWorld the October 8 OK to expand its current orca tanks—but only if “the facility will not house any orcas taken from the wild after February 12, 2014, nor will it utilize genetic material taken from orcas taken from the wild after February 12, 2014.”

Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Burbank, recently announced he would be sponsoring the Orca Responsibility and Care Advancement (ORCA) Act, federal legislation that would “prohibit breeding, with or without the use of artificial insemination. It would also prevent the “take” (wild capture), import or export of orcas for the purposes of public display.”

Schiff released a statement on Monday concerning SeaWorld’s decision, which states: “The decision by SeaWorld to phase out killer whale shows in San Diego is a welcome step along the path towards ending the captivity of these magnificent creatures…Much more needs to be done, however, and I would urge the company to curtail the breeding of their orcas and partner in the creation of ocean sanctuaries. The fact still remains that as long as SeaWorld holds orcas in captivity, the physical and psychological problems associated with their captivity will persist.”

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