For many of us, Sea World was where we first encountered orcas IRL — in fact, the ocean-themed amusement park has long become synonymous with killer whale shows. Unfortunately, 2013’s exposé documentary Blackfish revealed the seedier side of orcas in captivity, including shortened life spans of the animals and more than three orca trainer deaths. (PSA: if you want to help marine life, remember that no deed is too small. For instance, you could wear this ocean-cleaning bikini, these jeans or shoes — all made from recycled ocean trash.) Due to rampant backlash, the company is now making some big changes to killer whale shows and breeding practices. The organization recently announced that it will end orca breeding and theatrical killer whale shows, which is great news for whales and whale-lovers alike.
In an op-ed to the Los Angeles Times posted today, SeaWorld President and CEO Joel Manby explains that this will be the last generation of orcas at SeaWorld. The organization hasn’t collected an orca from the wild in almost four decades, he says, and will stop all breeding programs this year. The whales that are currently at SeaWorld, however, will stay put because they couldn’t survive in the wild after living in human care, Manby says.
And that’s not all: SeaWorld says it’s going to phase out theatrical whale shows and create “natural orca encounters” that focus on exercise and health. The existing pools where the shows take place will be redesigned for a more natural setting, and guests will still get to watch the whales at scheduled times, but without a show. SeaWorld is beginning this change at the San Diego location next year, followed by San Antonio and then Orlando in 2019, according to a company announcement.
The company has also committed $50 million over the next five years to help end the commercial killing of whales and seals, as well as shark finning. This definitely seems like a step in the right direction!
What do you think about SeaWorld’s announcement? Let us know @BritandCo.
(Photo via Handout/Getty)