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Posted: March 17, 2016

SeaWorld ending orca breeding at its theme parks

By Joe Kelley

WDBO – Orlando, Fla.

SeaWorld will immediately stop all orca breeding programs at its theme parks. 

>> Click here to watch the video from SeaWorld

From SeaWorld:

We’re making historic announcements at SeaWorld, including ending orca breeding, introducing new, inspiring and natural orca encounters, and launching new partnerships to protect oceans and marine animals. We’re creating a new vision for SeaWorld that will help us deliver on our mission that every guest who walks through our doors will be inspired to take action to help protect wild animals and wild places.

When SeaWorld opened its doors more than 50 years ago, killer whales were feared and even hunted. Now, they are among the most beloved marine mammals on the planet thanks, in part, to the inspirational encounters we’ve provided to more than 400 million guests.

The new vision for SeaWorld reflects changes in society and SeaWorld’s evolution with those changes, including ending killer whale breeding, new inspiring natural orca encounters, and new partnerships to protect oceans and marine animals.

While these decisions represent a shift in our business, they do not change our core values and purpose: to protect animals in the wild and inspire our guests to join us in this critical mission.

The transformation will start in the San Diego theme park, which had previously announced that it would stop the breeding program there to accommodate California laws and pressure from animal-rights activists. 

After San Diego, the San Antonio park will be the next to change direction, followed by Orlando's SeaWorld in 2019. 

As SeaWorld announced this morning, the parks will make major changes to the theatrical shows, transitioning them to "encounters." 

SeaWorld’s new orca encounter will take our killer whale shows in a new direction. We will introduce new, inspiring, natural orca encounters rather than theatrical shows, as part of our ongoing commitment to education, marine science research and the rescue of marine animals. 

Everything will reflect the natural world and will focus on the research, education, care and respect that align with our mission to advance the well-being and conservation of these beautiful creatures. 

No longer a theatrical show, these programs will focus on orca enrichment, exercise and overall health. Our existing show pools and viewing areas will be redesigned into a more naturalistic setting and we will continue to present the whales at scheduled times before a guest audience. 

SeaWorld has suffered from lagging attendance and profits following CNN's release of the documentary "Blackfish."

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The Humane Society of the United States issued the following statement:

SeaWorld has weathered strong currents of public criticism since the release of the 2013 documentary “Blackfish,” and today’s announcement comes in the wake of increasing pressure and calls on the company to end captive orca performance at its parks. 

“This is a first, massive step forward toward a more humane future for SeaWorld,” said Dr. Naomi Rose, marine mammal scientist at the Animal Welfare Institute and formerly with The HSUS. “I welcome these commitments from Joel Manby. He has given SeaWorld a new lease on life.”

“This is a defining moment. The fact that SeaWorld is doing away with orca breeding marks truly meaningful change,” said Gabriela Cowperthwaite, director of “Blackfish.”

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