SAN DIEGO -- SeaWorld and California workplace regulators have reached a settlement over allegations that the park failed to train workers to safely interact with its killer whales.
The settlement, which still needs approval from the California Occupational Safety and Health Appeals Board, would dismiss all four worker safety citations and related fines, but require the park to adhere to strict guidelines on how whales and trainers interact, according to the San Diego Union Tribune, which first reported the story.
The proposed agreement would ban surfing on, swimming under and standing on orcas. The citations claimed the park didn't keep employees aware of hazards involving the orcas.
A park spokesman said SeaWorld is pleased with the settlement.
The company already had ended the practice of having trainers share the water with the whales following the 2010 death of a trainer at its Orlando marine park. Trainer Dawn Brancheau was interacting with the killer whale Tilikum before a live audience in a pool at Shamu Stadium when Tilikum grabbed her and pulled her off a platform into the pool, then refused to release her before she drowned.
The Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission later found that the park had violated a federal workplace safety law.
Seaworld also has been struggling to recover from a PR hit arising from the 2013 documentary film "Blackfish," which featured Tilikum and suggested the treatment of captive orcas provokes violent behavior. The release of the film hurt attendance.
SeaWorld has indicated it is transitioning away from having the marine mammals perform acrobatic pool stunts. CEO Joel Manby told investors in November that the park's San Diego show — "One Ocean" — will end next year and be replaced in 2017 with an "all new Orca experience" that will emphasize the "natural behavior of whales."