It’s official: The current generation of orcas at SeaWorld will be its last.
Today, SeaWorld announced it will be ending its orca breeding program with immediate effect. This means that no new orcas will enter the gates of SeaWorld, although the whales that are currently in their facilities will continue to live there. They also reaffirmed that they will not "collect" orcas from the wild for use in their exhibitions, a practice they haven’t carried out for 40 years.
SeaWorld has been prohibited to breed captive orcas in California since a ruling in October 2015. However, this law did not account for the 18 orcas that SeaWorld own outside of its park in San Diego, California.
This latest move follows its decision in November last year to phase out live orca shows.
In an online statement, the company also announced its partnership with animal conservation group the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). Through this collaboration, SeaWorld says it hopes to move towards an education-focused experience in its theme parks and will continue to move away from live theatrical shows.
"As society's understanding of orcas continues to change, SeaWorld is changing with it," said Joel Manby, President and Chief Executive Officer of SeaWorld Entertainment. "By making this the last generation of orcas in our care and reimagining how guests will encounter these beautiful animals, we are fulfilling our mission of providing visitors to our parks with experiences that matter."
SeaWorld, who own 12 theme parks across the United States, has come under massive public scrutiny following the release of the 2013 documentary "Blackfish." The film brought to light numerous ethical concerns of holding orcas in captivity, and questioned the corporate responsibility of SeaWorld. In the wake of the film, SeaWorld reportedly suffered an 84 percent fall in profits in 2015.