The good news: SeaWorld announced on Monday that its San Diego park will phase out their killer whale show by 2017. The bad news: those same orcas will continue to perform in a similarly shitty but vigorously re-branded version of the current show, with “experiences that look more natural in the environment.” Oh, word?
The change, according to SeaWorld Entertainment CEO Joel Manby, will only take place at the San Diego park—where they’ve lost the most customers in the Blackfish backlash—and won’t involve any significant changes to the tank environments. Instead, as Slate explains:
[T]he shows probably won’t involve whales lifting their trainers into the air on their muzzles. But there will be whale dancing. Just naturalistic whale dancing. Guests “say is that they want the orca experience to be activities that the whales tend to do in the wild,” Manby explained. “So they jump in the wild. They splash in the wild. But some of the other things that are perceived as trained tricks” are less appreciated by guests and are probably going to be eliminated, Manby said.
Earlier this year, SeaWorld San Diego proposed a $100 million plan to replace its 1.7-million-gallon orca holding facility with a new 450,000-gallon pool and a 5.2-million-gallon tank. A former SeaWorld trainer who appeared in Blackfish told the LA Times that the expansion plan wouldn’t offer “meaningful improvement.”
In October, the California Coastal Commission ruled that SeaWorld San Diego could only move forward with this $100 million tank expansion proposal if they stopped breeding orcas; the company has promised to fight the ruling, and the tank expansion project is now on hold. According to Slate, Manby announced that, even if they win their lawsuit, they might not go ahead with the tank expansion at all.
And then there’s this puzzling piece of fuckery, via the San Diego Union-Tribune:
Just last week, Manby hinted that there would be a new attraction coming to the San Diego park and said that a portion of the $100 million allocated for a project to expand its killer whale tanks would be diverted for that purpose. In its online presentation, SeaWorld references a new capital investment for the park in 2017 and a re-allocation of the dollars that were to be spent on the so-called Blue World tank expansion project.
During today’s announcement, Manby also introduced a partnership with Evans Hotels to build a resort within the SeaWorld San Diego park; the Tribune suggests that this resort is the company’s new plan for a chunk of that $100 million dollars—the same $100 million that was originally meant to go towards modestly improving the horrific lived existences of their orcas. That is nuts.
I have reached out to SeaWorld for comment, and will update if I receive a response.
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Image via Getty.