On 17th March, SeaWorld made the surprise announcement it was immediately ending its captive orca breeding program – a huge win for animals and animal welfare advocates alike.
Sadly, the 23 orcas currently trapped at SeaWorld US marine parks will live out the rest of their days in tiny tanks. The good news is, they will be the marine park chain’s final generation of captive orcas – and SeaWorld also announced it will put an end to its circus style orca shows by 2019.
While this decision is definitely a step in the right direction, the motives behind it are still a bit blurry.
Since the release of the documentary Blackfish in 2013, SeaWorld’s profits plunged a whopping 84%. In an attempt to increase falling attendance rates and boost sales, SeaWorld announced a new orca encounter plan last year. The plan, titled ‘Blue World Project, included new, larger enclosures, but did not stipulate how many orcas would be kept in them.
When presenting this information to the California Coastal Commission in October 2015, the commission responded saying it would approve SeaWorld’s renovation plans only if the business ended its orca breeding program.
After months of deliberation and refusal to phase out captive breeding, SeaWorld’s attendance rates were still low. It seems the marine park chain had no other choice. Announcing an end to captive breeding would allow the company to renovate its parks, create the perception it is addressing animal welfare concerns and, ultimately, attract more customers.
What does this mean from a global perspective?
Vice President of PETA, Lisa Lange hopes SeaWorld’s decision to end captive orca breeding will have an impact on marine parks all over the world. It will stop SeaWorld selling captive-bred orcas and sperm to other marine parks, which will hopefully lead to a global decrease in the amount of orcas in captivity worldwide.
The scrutiny SeaWorld has received since Blackfish has not evaded other marine parks, and the recent orca breeding ban has put added pressure onto remaining international marine parks to also end their captive breeding programs.
As public awareness surrounding the fact dolphin and whales suffer in captivity increases, people are finding more reasons not to support marine parks. Instead, they are choosing to see marine animals where they belong – in the wild. A 2014 survey by AWI and Whale and Dolphin Conservation found an 11% rise in the amount of people against orca captivity since 2012. Additionally, the Born Free Foundation found 86% of British tourists would not visit a marine park while holidaying overseas.
People’s attitudes are changing for the better. The human race is slowly starting to value the intelligence and emotional complexity of whales and dolphins; and they are asking for change.
As AFD’s Advocacy Director, Jordan Sosnowski told ABC news recently she hopes Australia will now follow in the United States and the United Kingdom’s footsteps, and take steps towards phasing out dolphin captivity.
“What we would love to see in Australia is to phase out captive dolphin breeding as well,” Jordan told the ABC’s PM show. “There is certainly no reason to breed intelligent animals in captivity – especially when the science says they suffer so terribly.”
If you believe that dolphin captivity should be a thing of the past, please sign the petition to put an end to this cruel and outdated practice! à https://enddolphincaptivity.afd.org.au