SeaWorld has announced its current generation of killer whales will be their last.
Following the lead of The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, who earlier this year said they would retire all elephants from their acts in May, SeaWorld will stop breeding killer whales immediately and will phase out theatrical orca shows.
This change will start in its San Diego park next year, followed by San Antonio and then Orlando in 2019.
Plans were already in the works for SeaWorld to end killer whale shows in San Diego, due to regulatory scrutiny in California.
SeaWorld Entertainment has been under a lot of pressure to end the shows following the 2013 documentary ‘Blackfish.’ That film profiled ‘Tilikum,’ a whale who has been involved in the deaths of three people, including SeaWorld trainer Dawn Brancheau in 2010.
“SeaWorld has introduced more than 400 million guests to orcas, and we are proud of our part in contributing to the human understanding of these animals,” said Joel Manby, President and Chief Executive Officer of SeaWorld Entertainment, Inc. “As society’s understanding of orcas continues to change, SeaWorld is changing with it. By making this the last generation of orcas in our care and reimagining how guests will experience these beautiful animals, we are fulfilling our mission of providing visitors to our parks with experiences that matter.”
In a statement on their website, SeaWorld said the orcas will live out their lives at the company’s park habitats.
SeaWorld also announced a new partnership with the Humane Society of the United States.
“SeaWorld’s commitment to end breeding of orcas is a long-held goal of many animal advocacy organizations, and we commend the company for making this game-changing commitment,” said Wayne Pacelle, President and CEO of HSUS.
The move comes almost a year after Ontario cracked down on the marine mammal industry, and made it illegal to buy or breed a killer whale in the province.
Facilities which owned a killer whale prior to March 22, 2015, are allowed to keep them. That made ‘Kiska’ at Marineland, Ontario’s last-ever captive killer whale. Kiska, who is approximately 40 years old, was captured as a calf near Iceland in 1979.