SeaWorld will never breed another orca again.
In a major victory for animal lovers everywhere, the company announced Thursday in an agreement with the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) that it will immediately stop its captive breeding program, making the current generation of orcas the last.
"Today's announcement signals that the era of captive display of orcas will end,"
said Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of the HSUS, in a press release.
SeaWorld CEO Joel Manby said the company would also be phasing out its theatrical orca shows, and renewed its longstanding, but often questioned, commitment to rescuing and rehabilitating sea animals.
"As one of the largest rescue organizations in the world, we will increase our 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,"
Ever since the release of "Blackfish" three years ago, the public has lost its appetite for seeing orcas stuck in small tanks. Dwindling attendance numbers followed, and Manby has blamed "continued brand challenges."
Thursday's announcement means that SeaWorld has finally realized that its current model doesn't work from an ethical or business standpoint.
"This is a first, massive step forward toward a more humane future for SeaWorld,"
Dr. Naomi Rose, marine mammal scientist at the Animal Welfare Institute, said in the press release.
"I welcome these commitments from Joel Manby. He has given SeaWorld a new lease on life."This news comes just days after a press release stated that their star whale, and the leader of this Seaoworld Orca family tree, is now deadly sick from an infection.
“We are saddened to report that over the past few weeks, Tilikum’s behavior has become increasingly lethargic,”said Seaworld in a release.
“The SeaWorld veterinary and animal care teams are concerned that his health is beginning to deteriorate.”Back in the early ’80s, when he was two-years-old, Tilikum was taken from the coast of Iceland. Orcas are extremely family oriented, and often will spend their entire lives swimming beside their mothers, hunting in groups of up to 40 other whales.
Since his capture, Tilikum has killed many trainers and others who stepped in his path but Seaworld still continued to keep him captive for the Entertainment shows.
After of 9:30 a.m. Thursday, SeaWorld stock was already up 4 percent after this announcement.
(Tilikum's family tree)