SeaWorld Ending Signature Killer Whale “Shamu” Shows; Will Stop Breeding Orcas

Image courtesy of Bob Reck

For decades, SeaWorld parks have been associated with the visual of orca killer whales — most famously Shamu — jumping into the air for the amusement of large audiences. But amid growing criticism about the treatment of these animals and the safety of their trainers, SeaWorld has committed to not only ending these shows, but to also cease breeding orcas in captivity.

SeaWorld’s flagship park in San Diego had previously announced that it would phase out the theatrical killer whale shows in favor of an orca exhibit that was more educational about the animal.

Today, in a joint statement with the Humane Society of the United States, SeaWorld officially commits to ending these shows at all parks, and to end its practice of breeding the whales.

The orcas that are already at SeaWorld parks will continue to live out their lives there, though they will be the last of the orcas in captivity at the world-famous tourist attractions.

SeaWorld and the orca shows have been heavily criticized in recent years, especially in the wake of the 2013 documentary Blackfish, which chronicles the alleged mistreatment of orcas and apparent lapses in safety for their trainers.

The documentary looked at the death of SeaWorld Orlando trainer Dawn Brancheau, who was killed in front of park visitors when an orca named Tilikum pulled her into the water and kept her under during a performance.

The company has been trying to repair its tarnished public image ever since, launching a campaign called “Ask SeaWorld” and pledging to spend $10 million on orca research and expand the whale environment at the park, among other things.

Although SeaWorld has said it beefed up safety measures for its workers, in May 2015, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration in California cited SeaWorld San Diego for not properly protecting employees.