On March 7, California State Assemblyman Richard Bloom introduced the Orca Safety and Welfare Act. If passed, the bill would outlaw the use of orcas for "entertainment" or "performance purposes." Bloom told the press that the measure was inspired by the documentary Blackfish, which criticized SeaWorld for keeping orcas in captivity, and even suggested that the practice could turn so-called "regular killer whales" into "people-killer whales."
In the months following the release of Blackfish, SeaWorld fought hard in the press to counter the charges brought by the film. But once Bloom introduced his bill, the aquatic theme park decided to take a different tack. Today, in a stunning turn of events, SeaWorld announced that it would be replacing its orcas with great white sharks in all its shows. Even famed company mascot Shamu was replaced — by a shark named Chum.
"Blackfish was a pack of lies," said SeaWorld CEO Sam Savage. "But here at SeaWorld we're in showbiz, and showbiz isn't about what's true. It's about what people believe. Fatty Arbuckle didn't go from box office champ to total pariah because he killed a girl in a hotel room. All that mattered was that people thought he was guilty. We took our case to the court of public opinion, and we lost. End of story. It was time to move on. And it was hard not to notice that nobody was protesting our extremely popular shark exhibits."
"It's all about managing expectations," says SeaWorld Director of Dismemberment C.C. Bloodwater. "Kids grow up learning that killer whales don't attack humans. So when they do, it's treated like a betrayal, a violation of youthful innocence. People get upset, both in and out of the water. But sharks? Everybody knows that sharks are dangerous. When sharks attack, people get excited. They want to see. The Discovery Channel's Shark Week 2013 was the biggest weeklong television event ever among 18- to 49-year-olds. Subbing in sharks for orcas is just our way of making sure that if a trainer gets his leg bitten off, the only person who will be upset is the trainer."
The changeover is set for the July 4 holiday weekend, when the park is expecting heavy traffic and eager, intoxicated crowds. "They're in for a special show," explains Bloodwater. "Sadly, after considerable research and experimentation, we have determined that it will not be possible to transfer most of our existing orca stock into the wild. Whales are governed almost as much by early-stage learned behavior as by instinct, and they just won't know how to function out there in the open sea. It's the price of intelligence. So we've arranged a special farewell ceremony, in which our old friends will turn over the big tank to our new team. It's sure to be an unforgettable experience. Let's just say that the Soak Zone is getting rechristened the Spatter Zone for the occasion."
In addition, all attendees under 13 will receive a free commemorative Shamu plush doll. "Because of a mix-up at our production facility, the tails are missing on the dolls. Also one of the flippers. But you know what? I think it's all going to work out for the best."