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SeaWorld closing curtain on killer whale shows at San Diego park by end of 2016

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SAN DIEGO — SeaWorld is closing the curtain on killer whale shows at its San Diego park next year.

The company said Monday it plans to reinvent the attraction that’s been the center of animal-cruelty claims against SeaWorld.

Shows at the San Diego park will stop by the end of 2016, said CEO Joel Manby, while a “new orca experience” will debut in 2017 with a “strong conservation message.” Manby said that customers in Southern California don’t want to see the whales performing tricks and prefer a more “natural” experience.

San Diego’s SeaWorld may also scrap plans for a massive expansion of its killer whale environment. Manby cited concerns that pending regulations could hamper those plans.

“I’m not willing to put $100 million into a market when there’s regulatory questions,” Manby said.

California authorities banned breeding killer whales in captivity last month, and SeaWorld says it does not capture new animals from the wild.

Theatrical killer whale shows will continue at other SeaWorld parks.

SeaWorld announced the change at an investor conference.

An earnings update last week left investors worried about the company’s outlook. In the six days since then, its shares have plunged more than 10%.

SeaWorld’s reputation was badly damaged in part by “Blackfish,” a 2013 documentary co-produced by CNNFilms. The film generated criticism from lawmakers and advocacy groups like PETA.

Attendance at SeaWorld’s theme parks has waned, and its San Diego park has been particularly troublesome.

To help its boost the company’s image, Manby also said the company will “aggressively communicate” its animal care and rescue efforts.

SeaWorld is also planning new attractions and changes to its pricing.

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported details of SeaWorld’s pricing changes.

3 comments

  • A yooper

    The reason for waning attendance is so elementary. I wanted my boys to see real life. I took them up to James Bay. We saw whales. Spent less then a few day of Disney or sea world. They are 28 & 21 and still talk about it. Did Black Hills & other non-made up parks. They enjoyed riding the ferry in Galveston to see the dolphins.

  • Salty

    Nice excuse to stop the large expanding of their horrifying small tanks. The main reason why they don’t want to expand anymore is because their breeding program they wanted to expand with the build of the bigger tanks has been banned by a court ruling. Now they are just seeking a out so they don’t have to pay up for giving them better living conditions. Don’t you love it how they say they care for their animals. Yeah they care alright untill the money cow gets cut of. Now they can continu to rot away in their inhumane small tanks. SeaWorld is nothing more then a bunch of liars trying to safe face

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