After years of controversy, SeaWorld Park is officially halting its killer whale breeding program, as well as phasing out the theatrical orca shows that have served as a staple attraction.
In an op-ed for the L.A. Times, SeaWorld president and CEO Joel Manby explained that he has heard the moral objections to keeping orcas in manmade captivity, crystallized in the popular documentary Blackfish, loud and clear.
“We are proud of contributing to the evolving understanding of one of the world's largest marine mammals,” Manby writes. “Now we need to respond to the attitudinal change that we helped to create — which is why 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.”
However, Manby notes that SeaWorld will not be releasing the orcas already within the parks. “If we release them into the ocean, they will likely die,” he explains.
According to USA Today, the orca shows will no longer be held in SeaWorld’s San Diego park in 2017, and will be gone from San Antonio and Orlando by 2019. Animal rights activists, including PETA, have championed the news.