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SeaWorld to end Orca breeding

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WCA welcomes SeaWorld’s announcement to stop breeding its captive orcas

In January 2016 SeaWorld Entertainment announced that it will no longer breed orcas in captivity and will bring to an end its ‘entertainment shows’. The World Cetacean Alliance welcomes this policy shift by SeaWorld, which effectively means that the current generation of captive orcas at SeaWorld’s parks will be the last.

The Blackfish effect

The announcement comes after two years of falling share prices and visitor numbers as a result of the intense campaigning by animal welfare charities, responsible travel businesses and the public following the release of the film BlackFish. As the star of the film Tilikum lies close to death, SeaWorld have finally changed tack from their previous unwavering assertion that orca thrive in captivity.

People power

The policy shift was announced as part of a collaboration between the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and SeaWorld to help the entertainment company in making a change to reflect the increasing public concern for captive orca welfare. We applaud Humane Society’s efforts which illustrate that it is possible to campaign on an issue yet still agree to sit down and negotiate when the time is right. The opportunity to do so is the result of the efforts of many organisations both large and small, including the WCA’s many partners that have campaigned tirelessly on this issue, and the millions of people that have expressed their concerns.

The Show won’t go on

SeaWorld also said it would end ‘theatrical’ orca shows at all of its entertainment parks by 2019, transitioning to a more educational approach. It also said that the orca currently in the care of its SeaWorld parks will remain there for the rest of their lives, as SeaWorld believes that its facilities are the best place for them. WCA disagrees with this view, and advocates for the development of sea-pen sanctuaries to retire the animals into larger spaces and a natural environment.

Sending shock waves around the world

SeaWorld’s announcement will likely send shockwaves around the world as zoos and aquariums contemplate the implications for them. Most critically the pressure on other aquariums holding killer whales is likely to increase dramatically now that their practices are no longer aligned with those of SeaWorld. But there are wider implications too. If it is no longer acceptable to keep orcas in captivity, how can belugas or other dolphin species be justified? And if SeaWorld is bringing its entertainment shows to an end, then shouldn’t other establishments follow suit?

With such questions increasingly requiring positive answers we can anticipate widespread and sweeping changes within the captive cetacean industry in the coming months. The WCA will continue to work with its partners and other organisations to bring an end to captivity for all cetaceans. In the meantime, we applaud SeaWorld’s and HSUS’s efforts to work together and hope that other aquariums will reach out to the many experts on this issue to seek similar solutions in the coming months.

Meanwhile, today’s announcement marks significant progress. The fact that we now know that the 28 orcas currently held in SeaWorld’s parks will be the last is cause for celebration.

Join the WCA and help us ensure that the future for cetaceans is wild and free!

To join the World Cetacean Alliance and get involved in the Captivity Working Group email our Membership Secretary at membership@worldcetaceanalliance.org

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