SeaWorld says it’s ending its controversial orca breeding program, phasing out its live orca shows, and that the orcas currently at the parks will be “the last generation.”
The move comes on the heels of heavy criticism of it’s orca program, much of it stemming from the wide release of the film Blackfish, along with declining attendance and a plunging stock price to match.
Former SeaWorld trainers and Blackfish cast members Samatha Berg and Jeffrey Ventre say it’s a great first step, but there’s plenty more work to be done.
READ MORE: No more orca shows at Seaworld by 2017
Ventre says the move shows guts on the part of SeaWorld’s CEO.
“Joel Manby deserves credit for having some cohones to get rid of the old guard at SeaWorld, including some of his top executives to pave the way to make this decision, it’s a first step, it doesn’t do anything to address any of the other cetaceans at SeaWorld, but you gotta give kudos to somebody who had the balls to do it.”
But he says he’s waiting to see what happens before he gets too hopeful. He says SeaWorld has played a “bait and switch” game in the past – just recently fighting legislation to ban captive orcas.
But he says there is power in the symbolism of SeaWorld’s action, particularly since it is the world leader in the aquarium industry.
“Them stopping killer whale captivity is going to send a message to places like Loro Parque and the Dolphinarium in the Netherlands and places in Mexico and all over.”
What comes next?
Berg says they can’t be released into the wild, and that for orcas there are no sea sanctuaries.
But she says there is a group working on creating one, and she’d like to see it put into use where possible.
“I think they have to look at all of the animals on an individual basis. Some of them were born in captivity, there’s a few animals that were captured in the wild, and if they look at all of the animals individually they would see that some of them would be eligible for a more natural setting and not just have to live out the rest of their lives in a tank.”
Berg says while films like Blackfish have brought attention to orcas, pressure needs to be brought to bear on other cetaceans still being bred in captivity.
“The dolphins and the beluga whales and the pilot whales- there’s a whole other set of animals that don’t do well in captivity.”
She adds that while SeaWorld may have ended orca breeding, it still has a large supply of frozen sperm which could be used – or sold to breeders in other countries.