Sea World Is Halting Orca Shows In San Diego — Is It Enough?

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In 2013, Blackfish thrust the plight of orcas in captivity into the spotlight. Questions were raised about tank size, treatment, socialization practices, and lack of administrative oversight. The campaign gained steam, punctuated by pop-culture crossover moments like bands declining to play at the park and Steve-O getting arrested for climbing a crane to hang a protest banner. Sea World answered with a $10 million PR campaign, a website focused completely on the orca issue, some ads that put trainers in front of the camera while taking shots at PETA, and a steady stream of customer reassurances.

PETA — an organization that will always giddily fight fire with fire — responded by going full “Hit ’em up” mode in this parody ad:

Then orchestrated the takeover of Sea World’s #askatrainer Twitter campaign.

With more and more celebrities speaking out about orcas in captivity, shareholder pressure, and falling revenues, the park clearly had to pivot. This morning, Sea World Entertainment CEO Joel Manby did exactly that: announcing that Sea World will completely phase out live orca shows at their San Diego location by 2017.
The question is: will it be enough? So far, Manby’s statement about cutting out orca shows only pertains to the San Diego park and it’s not clear what he has planned next. Whatever replaces the theatrical orca show is meant to carry a “conservation message inspiring people to act” but details are murky.

PETA is also sure to seize on the fact that Manby announced a hold on a planned orca tank expansion with a glib-feeling quote, “We’re not comfortable putting $100 million into a market when there are regulatory questions. Until that whole issue settles, then we’ll make a decision at that time.”

Meaning that for the short-term, the orca conditions at Sea World may not change much. But with legislation pending to end killer whale shows completely, it’s starting to seem like the writing is on the wall.

Lovers of large mammals roaming free in the wild issued the following response: