Nov 9 (Reuters) - SeaWorld plans to phase out the killer whale show at its San Diego park next year after coming under longstanding criticism for its treatment of the mammals also known as orcas, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported on Monday.
Citing a SeaWorld document prepared in advance of a webcast to investors, the newspaper said the phase-out was part of a comprehensive strategy to re-position the company.
A new orca experience in a more natural setting will take the place of the park's long-running "Shamu" shows and debut in 2017, it said.
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SeaWorld to phase out killer whale show in San Diego: report
An orca swims at the Marineland animal exhibition park in the French Riviera city of Antibes, southeastern France, on December 12, 2013. AFP PHOTO / VALERY HACHE (Photo credit should read VALERY HACHE/AFP/Getty Images)
MARCH 20, 2014. SAN DIEGO, CA. During a night time performance at Shamu Stadium, a trained orca killer whale leaps above the pool at Sea World, San Diego, CA on March 20, 2014. In the aftermath of the documentary 'Blackfish', critics are suggesting an end to keeping whales captive for entertainment. (Photo by Don Bartletti/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
Orcas perform on August 11, 2013 at the Marineland animal exhibition park in the French Riviera city of Antibes, southeastern France. AFP PHOTO / VALERY HACHE (Photo credit should read VALERY HACHE/AFP/Getty Images)
Big Orca Sunset Spyhop
In this photo taken Feb. 26, 2015, and provided by NOAA Fisheries, newborn Orca calf L121 swims with its mother, L94, off Westport, Wash., with the NOAA research ship Bell M. Shimada in the background. Researchers aboard a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration vessel returned to Oregon earlier this week with a wealth of new data about the whales and their ocean environment. The information was gained after NOAA Fisheries researchers followed the giant marine mammals for 21 days to find out where they go during the winter, what they eat, and what risks they encounter. (AP Photo/NOAA Fisheries, Candice Emmons)
In this Wednesday, Feb. 25, 2015 photo provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, (NOAA) a new baby orca swims alongside an adult whale, believed to be its mother, about 15 miles off the coast of Westport, Wash. U.S. biologists following endangered killer whales from a research vessel spotted the newborn orca off the coast of Washington state on Wednesday with other whales in the âLâ pod, one of three families of southern resident killer whales that frequent inland Washington waters. This is the third baby born to the whale pods in recent months, bringing the Puget Soundâs endangered population to 80, still dangerously low. (AP Photo/National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Candice Emmons)
A female resident orca whale breaches while swimming in Puget Sound near Bainbridge Island as seen from a federally permitted research vessel Saturday, Jan. 18, 2014. Researchers from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration followed about two dozen of the killer whales from J pod through the Sound Saturday after being alerted to their presence the night before from whale L-87, who carries a satellite-linked tag. L-87 was tagged by NOAA several weeks ago as part of ongoing research on the southern resident killer whales. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
An orca eats fish at the Marineland animal exhibition park in Antibes, southeastern France, Thursday, Dec. 12, 2013. Marineland Antibes was founded in 1970. First it was a small oceanarium with a few pools and animals but now it is one of the biggest in the world and receives more than 1,200,000 visitors per year. (AP Photo/Lionel Cironneau)
In this photo taken Wednesday Nov. 9 2011, Orca Morgan swims in her tank at the Dolfinarium in Harderwijk, Netherlands. Animal rights activists lost a last ditch appeal to an Amsterdam court to release the killer whale back into the wild, the court ruling on Monday Nov. 21 2011 allows the transfer of the animal to Spanish marine park Loro Parque on Tenerife island. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)
A killer whale swims towards the setting sun as seen from the charter boat Thunderbird as it travels north from Laguna Beach towards Catalina Island, Calif., Sunday, Dec. 12, 1999. Typically, there are about 10 to 15 orcas to a pod. But this weekend, some 60-70 orcas gathered in a ``super pod,'' a phenomenon that brings a handful of pods together for a short period before the orcas disperse back into their smaller groups. (AP Photo/Susie Hall)
An orca swims with its calf at the Marineland animal exhibition park in the French Riviera city of Antibes, southeastern France, on December 12, 2013. AFP PHOTO / VALERY HACHE (Photo credit should read VALERY HACHE/AFP/Getty Images)
Female orca Wikie swims with her calf born by artificial insemination on April 19, 2011 at Marineland animal exhibition park in the French Riviera city of Antibes, southeastern France. Born on March 16, the two metre long baby weighing 150 kilos hasn't yet been called. AFP PHOTO / VALERY HACHE (Photo credit should read VALERY HACHE/AFP/Getty Images)
Orca killer whale (Orcinus orca), headshot
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The report comes a month after the California Coastal Commission voted unanimously to permit SeaWorld San Diego to expand its orca habitat on condition that the park also cease its captive-breeding program for the whales.
The commission's decision was seen as a major blow to the park's traditional centerpiece orca shows, named for the original Shamu of the 1960s and early 1970s.
SeaWorld Entertainment Inc has faced heated criticism and declining admissions since release of the 2013 documentary film "Blackfish," which presented a dim view of how the company treats its orcas.
The park's plan to expand its orca pools drew opposition from animal rights groups and their supporters who wanted to see the park's collection of 11 killer whales released to the wild instead.