SeaWorld ends breeding of killer whales

Since the documentary Blackfish was released in 2013, there has been growing public hostility to the keeping of all cetaceans – but especially killer whales – in captivity. Now SeaWorld has taken note.

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Orca, SeaWorld

 

Seaworld – the US aquarium entertainments business – is to stop breeding orcas in its captive facilities, leading to the eventual phasing out of any killer whales being held at its centres.

It is also phasing out all ‘theatrical shows’ using orcas.

According to Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC), SeaWorld has 29 of the 56 killer whales currently held in captivity throughout the world.

“WDC is thrilled that SeaWorld’s new management is finally aligned with public opinion and recognises the fact that keeping performing orcas in tanks for our entertainment is no longer acceptable,” said anti-captivity campaigner Rob Lott.

The announcement was made through an article written by SeaWorld chief executive officer Joel Manby in the LA Times and an interview jointly recorded with Manby and Wayne Pacelle, the CEO of one of the world’s leading animal welfare organisations, the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS).

In a blog for the HSUS website, Pacelle said SeaWorld had been forced to end the breeding of captive orcas by economic pressure.

“Joel Manby 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,” Pacelle said.

But in his article for the LA Times, Manby defended SeaWorld’s keeping of killer whales over the past half a century.

‘When the first SeaWorld park opened in 1964, orcas were not universally loved, to put it mildly,” Manby said.

“Instead, they were feared, hated and even hunted.”

Manby claimed that the change in the public’s attitude to the species had been brought about partly because they had been able to watch them at SeaWorld. “We are proud of contributing to the evolving understanding of one of the world’s largest marine mammals,” Manby said.

Through its partnership with HSUS, SeaWorld will put more effort into rescuing stranded marine mammals – it already takes in 27,000 animals a year – “so that thousands of dolphins and sealions that cannot be released back to the wild will have a place to go.”

While welcoming the announcement, WDC questioned what would happen to the numerous dolphins and belugas also held in SeaWorld aquaria.

“This is all code for falling profits, and that’s due to the public backlash against keeping orcas in captivity as a result of campaigning by us and others and the film Blackfish,” said a WDC spokesperson.

Read Joel Manby’s announcement in the LA Times

Read Wayne Pacelle’s blog for HSUS

Read more wildlife news stories in BBC Wildlife Magazine

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