SeaWorld Will Phase Out Killer Whale Shows, Ends Captive Breeding Program

Back in November, we told you that SeaWorld had planned to phase out killer whale shows in their San Diego park by March, but not in their other two parks. They also vaguely suggested that the animals would still be used in “an entirely new orca experience.” It seems that public pressure has had a profound affect on the heads of the company because they said that they are ending their controversial captive-breeding program for orcas. This means that the current killer whales in captivity “will be the last generation of orcas at SeaWorld.”

SeaWorld announced on Thursday that it will end “all orca breeding” immediately in all of their parks. The practice was widely deemed as inhumane and had already been prohibited in California. This will effectively end orcas at the SeaWorld parks because they have not collected an orca from the wild in nearly 40 years.

Joel Manby, the president and CEO of SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment, wrote an op-ed in the L.A. Times explaining the company’s decision.

SeaWorld is announcing several historic changes. This year we will end all orca breeding programs — and because SeaWorld hasn’t collected an orca from the wild in almost four decades, this will be the last generation of orcas in SeaWorld’s care. We are also phasing out our theatrical orca whale shows.

Some animal rights activists want the park to go further and set free the orcas that are currently in captivity at the parks, but Manby argues against that notion.

Most of our orcas were born at SeaWorld, and those that were born in the wild have been in our parks for the majority of their lives. If we release them into the ocean, they will likely die. In fact, no orca or dolphin born under human care has ever survived release into the wild. Even the attempt to return the whale from “Free Willy,” Keiko, who was born in the wild, was a failure.

For as long as they live, the orcas at SeaWorld will stay in our parks. They’ll continue to receive the highest-quality care, based on the latest advances in marine veterinary medicine, science and zoological best practices.

SeaWorld also announced a partnership with the Humane Society.

SeaWorld takes seriously its responsibility to preserve marine wildlife. That’s why we are partnering with the nation’s largest and most effective animal protection and advocacy organization. Together, we will work against commercial whaling and seal hunts, shark finning and ocean pollution.

The Humane Society recognizes the critical work SeaWorld performs as one of the largest rescue organizations in the world. SeaWorld will increase its focus on rescue operations — so that the thousands of stranded marine mammals like dolphins and sea lions that cannot be released back to the wild will have a place to go.

SeaWorld will also join in the Humane Society’s efforts to raise awareness of animal welfare, offering humane food options and serving only sustainable seafood.

SeaWorld came under intense scrutiny over their treatment of killer whales when the scathing documentary Blackfish debuted in 2013. The disparaging film directed by Gabriela Cowperthwaite focuses on Tilikum, an orca held by SeaWorld and the controversy over keeping killer whales in captivity. The searing documentary exposed the dangers to the animals and the handlers. Last week, SeaWorld Orlando announced that Tilikum is suffering from an illness that may kill him.

Soon after the movie gained worldwide popularity, SeaWorld saw their attendance and revenue shrink. These factors caused then CEO, Jim Atchison, to resign.

The treatment of animals has been an important issue to many, even “The Dog Whisperer,” Cesar Millan, is being investigated for animal abuse.