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SeaWorld has announced it is ending its controversial orca breeding program.

The theme park operator’s decision means the orca whales currently at the parks will be “the last generation”.

SeaWorld, which has 12 parks across the US, has faced heavy criticism over the alleged poor treatment of its captive orcas, also known as killer whales.

The company said the orcas would be likely to die if it released them into the wild.

“For as long as they live, the orcas at SeaWorld will stay in our parks,” the company said in a Los Angeles Times op-ed.

SeaWorld has previously announced that it will phase out live orca shows.

Photo Getty Images

Photo Getty Images

Dramatic displays by the whales are the centerpiece of three parks operated by SeaWorld, in California, Florida and Texas.

The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) worked with SeaWorld on its new policies and said the announcement signaled “that the era of captive display of orcas will end”.

SeaWorld stopped capturing live marine mammals decades ago, with the majority of its 29 orcas having been born in captivity.

The treatment of SeaWorld’s orcas was highlighted in the 2013 documentary Blackfish, which focused on a series of violent incidents involving an orca called Tilikum.

The documentary also raised questions over the ethics of breeding programs and practices such as the separation of calves from their mothers.

Since Blackfish was released visitor numbers have fallen at SeaWorld’s main theme parks and its share price has halved.

SeaWorld described the documentary as inaccurate, misleading and exploitative and launched a multi-million dollar marketing campaign to rebuild its reputation.

Blackfish director Gabriela Cowperthwaite was quoted by HSUS as saying the decision to end orca breeding represented “truly meaningful change”.


The SeaWorld theme park in California has decided to phase out controversial public displays by killer whales, CEO Joel Manby has said.

Joel Manby announced that 2017 will be the last year of the show in San Diego.

He said that the move was part of a strategy that seeks to reverse falling visitor numbers at the company’s 11 parks across the US.

SeaWorld has faced intense criticism by activists who say keeping the orcas in captivity is cruel and unnecessary.

Its shares have halved in value since the release of a critical documentary film two years ago.

Dramatic displays by orcas are the centerpiece at three parks operated by SeaWorld, in California, Florida and Texas.

The San Diego park is the company’s second biggest and features its famous Shamu killer whale show.

Photo SeaWorld

Photo SeaWorld

The parks have long been criticized by animal rights activists and some politicians, who argue that keeping the mammals – also known as orcas – in captivity is cruel and unnecessary.

Last month, Californian authorities prohibited SeaWorld from breeding animals in captivity, calling into question the future of the park’s popular killer whale attraction.

The San Diego show will reportedly be replaced with a new orca experience in a “more natural” setting but it is not clear what exactly that will involve.

SeaWorld’s popularity was damaged and attendance fell at its parks – especially in California – following the critically-acclaimed 2013 documentary Blackfish, which highlighted the impact of captivity on orcas.

The company has dismissed the documentary as inaccurate and misleading, pointing out that it has not captured a whale in the wild for 35 years.

SeaWorld has since sought to improve its fortunes with a fresh marketing campaign and discount offers.