An orca whale performs in captivity.

An orca whale performs in captivity. (Stock photo)

SewWorld CEO Joel Manby announced today that the current “theatrical” show featuring orcas at San Diego SeaWorld will be replaced with an attraction that features a “conservation message inspiring people to act” in 2017. The move will end the current well-known orca show in 2016.

The new show, “…will be focused on … the natural behavior of the whales,” Manby said. The new attraction appears to be part of an effort to combat growing public sentiment against whales in captivity.

San Diego Sea World. Image: Creative Commons

San Diego Sea World. Image: Creative Commons

Last month the California Coastal Commission’s blocked SeaWorld’s proposed San Diego expansion, Project Blue World, due to public concern that the expansion was a PR move and would simply turn into a breeding ground for more captive orcas.

The commission initially approved the project, on the condition that SeaWorld San Diego end its breeding program. Manby called the decision and condition “unacceptable” and the company pledged to fight the commission’s decision in court. On Monday Manby reaffirmed the company’s dedication to fighting the commission, calling it a “bad precedent not just for us but for all zoos and aquariums.”

SeaWorld has been struggling financially since the release of the 2013 film “Blackfish,” which sparked concern over how the marine park treats its animals. On Thursday, the company revealed yet another quarter of below-forecast earnings, taking a stock market tumble.

Last Friday, U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) announced that he plans to introduce federal legislation, titled the Orca Responsibility and Care Advancement (ORCA) Act, that would phase out the use of orcas in captivity.

It’s not yet clear whether this show repackaging will assuage an increasingly aware public. But at this point, it doesn’t look like it will be much of an improvement for the orcas.