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SeaWorld Announces End to Its Breeding of Captive Orcas

The marine park’s current generation of whales will be its last.

Photo via Flickr user Chris Favero

After years of public scrutiny and declining profits, SeaWorld announced Thursday that it will no longer breed orcas in captivity. The marine theme park, infamous for its killer whale shows, ensured the public that the company’s current generation of whales will be its last, suggesting a brighter future for the animals as well as the parks.

In a collaboration with the Humane Society of the United States, SeaWorld CEO Joel Manby announced that the parks will improve the living conditions of their animals in addition to phasing out the killer whale shows. The captive orcas will not be released because no marine mammal bred in captivity has survived in the wild, but the shows will be replaced with “orca enrichment and exercise activities.”

Public opinion on SeaWorld’s treatment of orcas and whale theatrical shows changed dramatically in large part because of the 2013 documentary Blackfish, a scathing exposé of the inhumane treatment of killer whales in marine parks. The documentary heightened protests from animal rights activists and PETA, who have lobbied against SeaWorld for years.

Since the documentary’s release, SeaWorld’s stock has fallen by nearly 50 percent and its revenue fell from $1.38 billion in 2014 to $1.37 billion in 2015, Mashable reports.

In an op-ed, published in the Los Angeles Times, Manby explains that while SeaWorld has been a major factor in changing public perception of the killer whale, it is now time to focus on larger environmental concerns.

“Wild animals and wild places will continue to disappear—biologists call this ‘the sixth extinction,’ comparable to previous cataclysms such as the ice age—unless humans awaken and take action,” he wrote. “In this impending crisis, the real enemies of wildlife are poaching, pollution, unsustainable human development and man-made disasters such as oil spills—not zoos and aquariums.”

According to the HSUS, SeaWorld will continue its rescue efforts and offer more humane diets for its animals, including cage-free eggs, gestation-crate-free pork, sustainably sourced seafood, and more vegetarian and vegan options.

“By offering our guests enjoyable, memorable and educational experiences, SeaWorld will continue to create the constituency for conservation, just as we helped to inspire the changing attitudes that, in turn, inspired our company's changing policies,” Manby wrote.

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