SeaWorld to End Orca Breeding Programme and Orca Shows by 2019

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Banner image courtesy of Banksy

[Update] “Expedia to stop selling holidays that include captive dolphin shows,” The Guardian, 7  November 2021

There has been a joint announcement between SeaWorld and the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), that says SeaWorld has agreed to stop breeding captive killer whales.

Therefore, we can assume no more orcas will be bred (by SeaWorld’s dubious methods) in the future. The last captive orcas held by SeaWorld (29 orcas at present but Tilikum in poor health) will be released of their ‘duties’ at SeaWorld’s ‘entertainment’ parks by 2019.

“Instead of breeding orcas, SeaWorld will now invest $50 million over five years to increase its focus on rescue and rehabilitation of marine animals in distress and bringing attention to rescued animals that cannot be released to raise awareness of their plight and educate the public about the growing threats to marine life” – Take Part Daily, 17 March 2016.

SeaWorld are teaming up with HSUS to campaign on marine issues, such as illegal commercial (‘research’) whaling, seal hunting etc.

Well done the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) for negotiating this policy change with SeaWorld and let’s hope that the new partnership comes to fruition in due course.

SeaWorld’s excuses for past wrong doing can be read at this link, “We’re ending our Orca Breeding Program. Here’s Why.” SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment CEO Joel Manby, Los Angeles Times, 17 March 2016

For as long as they live, the orcas at SeaWorld will stay in our parks. They’ll continue to receive the highest-quality care, based on the latest advances in marine veterinary medicine, science and zoological best practices” – SeaWorld CEO, Joel Manby, 17 March 2016.

So, no coastal sea sanctuary (it’s understood why SeaWorld’s captive orcas can’t be rehabilitated back into the wild) for any of SeaWorld’s captive orcas then – just retirement at some point to live out their lives in one of SeaWorld’s concrete park prisons under SeaWorld’s ‘care’ it would seem. Surely, there is a better, more humane solution that SeaWorld can fund than that?


What happens to the rest of SeaWorld’s captive cetaceans, the dolphins taken from the wild and forced to perform for human ‘entertainment’ at SeaWorld’s parks and other such ‘aquariums’ around the globe?

It’s going to take much more effort for SeaWorld (and the industry it represents) to gain any credibility for altruistic animal concerns, if SeaWorld continues to seek to profit from any form of animal exploitation with its current parks and shows – no matter if SeaWorld has now (though forced to, kicking and screaming for a long, long time) made some welcome concessions to humane animal welfare in its on-going business model based on animal abuse.


SeaWorld to End Orca Breeding Programme,” BBC News, 17 March 2016

SeaWorld to End Captive Breeding of Killer Whales, Orca Shows,” Take Part Daily, 17 March 2016

Breaking News: SeaWorld to End All Orca Breeding,” HSUS, 17 March 2016

Further Reading

Troubled Miami Seaquarium ordered to close after high-profile animal deaths,” The Guardian, 7 March 2024

‘She is finally home’: activists mourn Toki’s death and find meaning in rare whale meetup,” The Guardian, 20 August 2023

Orca Lolita dies after 52 years in captivity at Miami Seaquarium,” Sky News, 19 August 2023

Tokitae [Lolita], the oldest orca in captivity, has path to freedom after 50 years,” The Guardian, 30 March 2023

Tokitae is the oldest killer whale in captivity. Now in retirement, she spent decades performing at the Miami Seaquarium, where she went by the name Lolita. She lived in the smallest orca enclosure in North America, in a pool of water that made her skin infected and was fed fish that was occasionally rotten and led to intestinal issues.

There are still questions about Toki’s health and her ability to travel across the country to a sea pen. The pen would be constructed with the help of the non-profit Whale Sanctuary Project, which is also creating the world’s first whale sanctuary off the coast of Nova Scotia, following the model of areas to house big cats, great apes or elephants after they’ve been in captivity.

Toki’s relatives – members of the resident L-pod in the Salish Sea – are still alive, including the 90-year old whale believed to be her mother. Experts worry that if she were to encounter her kin, even through a sea pen, the infections Toki picked up in captivity could be spread to other southern resident killer whales, an already-endangered group that numbers only 74 individuals.” – So, no guarantees Tokitae (Lolita) will be truly free ever again to swim with her relatives…..perhaps her torture and exploitation for ‘human entertainment’ will never truly end until the day she dies.

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