A 2014 show featuring the Orca whales at SeaWorld in San Diego, California.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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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.