This morning, SeaWorld announced it will stop breeding killer whales in captivity and will not capture new whales from other sources.
The move comes after mounting pressure from animal rights groups and a decline in park attendance.
SeaWorld made the announcement in conjunction with the Humane Society of America.
“Joel Manby, SeaWorld's CEO, is banking on the premise that the American public will come to SeaWorld's parks in larger numbers if he joins our cause instead of resisting it, and if SeaWorld is a change agent for the good of animals,” President and CEO of the Humane Society Wayne Pacelle said in a press release. “He’s exactly right, and I give him tremendous credit for his foresight.”
There are about 30 killer whales remaining in captivity.
The theatrical whale shows are also being phased out in favor of showing orcas in a more natural setting.
Late last year, the California Coastal Commission made a SeaWorld request for permission to build a new enclosure for the whales contingent upon the park’s relinquishing the right to continue breeding orcas. SeaWorld announced in December that they would fight the decision.
Mounting pressure from animal rights groups and the popularity of the documentary Blackfish have both caused a decline in attendance at all three amusement parks. Blackfish described the deaths of three people by a killer whale in captivity named Tilikum.
Last week, SeaWorld announced the 35-year-old whale Tilikum has a lung infection which is resistant to antibiotics. The average lifespan in the wild for male killer whales is about 30 years but can range from 50 to 60 years, according to the National Oceanic Atmospheric Association (NOAA).
In a video announcement, Manby said SeaWorld plans to focus more on the rescue efforts of marine animals and will put $50 million toward the efforts.
“[We are] going to be focused on our rescue operations and we want all of our customers to know about it, and we’re going to put more resources behind it,” Manby said.
SeaWorld and the Humane Society will partner together moving forward.
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