Today SeaWorld has announced that they plan to suspend all orca public displays at their San Diego park by 2017. The news, which was announced to investors, seems to be the latest nail in SeaWorld's increasingly nail-abundant coffin.
SeaWorld, which operates 11 parks across the U.S., has been the target of a wide-spread and extremely prolific campaign of criticism following the release of the Blackfish documentary two years ago.
The documentary, which included insights from former SeaWorld employees, claimed SeaWorld orcas were kept in captivity that was both cruel and unnecessary, especially for such highly intelligent creatures. Recent scientific observations also suggests orcas live much longer in the wild than in captivity, a claim refuted by SeaWorld. The conditions at SeaWorld, the documentary suggests, not only caused harm to the animals, but also led to the death of an orca trainer.
Check out a clip from Blackfish below:
As a result of this campaign, which includes several high profile celebrities and politicians, SeaWorld has seen a steady drop in profits and ticket sales over the last 12 months – especially in California. From 2014 to 2015, SeaWorld has seen its net profit plummet by 84%, while it has also lost half its stock value and several big name sponsors. Furthermore, since the release of Blackfish, online mentions of SeaWorld have jumped by 400%, with 80% of these being negative in nature.
SeaWorld has attempted to stem the exodus with a new marketing offensive designed at placating concerned potential customers. For the most part, it seems to have fallen on skeptical ears. As a result, the San Diego park, the company's second biggest, has introduced changes to reflect the "input received."
The orcas currently at the park will now be relocated to a new "orca experience" in a "more natural" setting. When asked by the BBC what this new experience would entail, the park stated they had not yet decided "what specific behaviors" would be displayed.
However, despite the change of policy, this still might only temporarily delay the inevitable. In October, Californian policymakers prohibited SeaWorld from breeding orcas in captivity, greatly calling into question the sustainability of the company.