SeaWorld plans to phase out its theatrical killer whale show at the theme park’s San Diego, Calif., location.

SeaWorld Halting Killer Whale Shows

SeaWorld’s chief executive Joel Manby announced that the San Diego theme park’s final killer whale show will take place in 2017, reported the San Diego Union Tribune. As criticism for the orca show has only grown louder over the last couple of years, negatively affecting ticket sales, Manby explained that the park needs to reverse that trend.

“We start everything by listening to our guests and evolving our shows to what we’re hearing, 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,” said Manby. “But it’s not universal across our properties.”

SeaWorld has a total of 11 parks within the United States, three of which have killer whale shows as centerpieces – in California, Florida and Texas. As of yet, there are no plans to phase out the shows in Florida and Texas, which have not seen as much of a decline in sales as a result of the orca show issue.

Further dampening the enthusiasm for SeaWorld’s response to the criticism is the fact that the company isn’t planning on doing away with a killer whale attraction altogether. The famed orcas, which are kept in captivity, will somehow remain a park attraction. As of yet, it’s unclear what Manby meant by making it “more natural.”

Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Burbank, who plans to introduce federal legislation to prohibit breeding orcas in captivity in addition to other measures, believes that SeaWorld’s proposed actions are merely a first of many steps.

“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,” said Schiff. “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.”

WATCH THE uINTERVIEW WITH DR. JOHN JETT ON ‘BLACKFISH’

SeaWorld has been struggling to get on the good side of public opinion since 2013, when the documentary Blackfish shined a light on the theme park’s handling of orca whales. The doc, made by Gabriela Cowperthwaite, has sparked numerous protests and petitions against SeaWorld.

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