Months after the California Coastal Commission imposed a breeding ban on its San Diego park, SeaWorld says it will end its orca breeding program for good. Breeding will end at all three US parks this year, meaning the killer whales now in captivity will be "the last generation," SeaWorld CEO Joel Manby writes in the Los Angeles Times. The orcas, which have spent all or most of their lives under human care, won't be released into the wild because they "could not survive," Manby says, per WFTV. He adds SeaWorld will continue to be home to "stranded marine mammals like dolphins and sea lions that cannot be released back to the wild." SeaWorld parks will also have "new, inspiring, natural orca encounters, rather than theatrical shows" by 2019.
"Today's announcement signals that the era of captive display of orcas will end," a rep for the US Humane Society tells NPR. "We commend the company for making this game-changing commitment." SeaWorld says it has partnered with the Humane Society to protect oceans and ocean species and will spend $50 million over the next five years to put an end to commercial whaling, shark finning, seal hunts, and ocean pollution. "The real enemies of wildlife are poaching, pollution, unsustainable human development, and man-made disasters such as oil spills—not zoos and aquariums," Manby writes. The director of Blackfish says this is "a defining moment. The fact that SeaWorld is doing away with orca breeding marks truly meaningful change." (Read more SeaWorld stories.)