Breaking News: SeaWorld to End All Orca Breeding

By on March 17, 2016 with 48 Comments By Wayne Pacelle

In a sign that the humane economy is an unyielding force, exerting its influence on companies in all sectors of commerce, SeaWorld announced in cooperation with The HSUS today that it will end all breeding of its orcas and it won’t obtain additional orcas from other sources—policies sought by animal advocates for many decades.

The company also announced, after negotiations with The HSUS, that it would phase out its theatrical orca shows in favor of orca exhibits that highlight the whales’ natural behaviors, and have no orcas at all in any new parks around the world – the remaining orcas will be the last generation housed at SeaWorld. The company has also agreed to redouble its efforts to conduct rescue and rehabilitation for a wide variety of marine creatures in distress; join The HSUS in our advocacy campaigns against commercial whaling, sealing, shark finning, and other cruelties; and revamp food policies at all of its parks for 20 million visitors.

It’s a momentous announcement, and it comes almost exactly a year after Ringling Bros. agreed to phase out its elephant acts in traveling circuses. SeaWorld has pledged to invest at least $50 million over the next five years for the rescue and rehabilitation of marine animals and on advocacy campaigns—a major boost to our movement in helping marine animals in crisis.

In my forthcoming book, The Humane Economy: How Innovators and Enlightened Consumers Are Transforming the Lives of Animals, I wrote about SeaWorld in a chapter on the use of animals in film and television, in the circus, and in marine parks. I noted the revolutionary changes in the film industry where more and more producers and directors are embracing computer-generated imagery as an alternative to using live animals, and I recounted the decades-long campaign to bring pressure to bear on Ringling Bros. to end its elephant acts. In my discussion of SeaWorld, I forecast that its business model would have to change – that there was an inevitability to the shift in its operations due to consumer demand.

Little did I know when I turned in my manuscript in December that I’d soon be meeting with the new CEO of SeaWorld and launching discussions with him about the future direction of the company. And little did I expect that our two organizations would together make a landmark announcement before the book made it into bookstores.

The humane economy can move at lightning speed, and hit with full force. The world is waking up to the needs of all animals, and the smartest CEOs don’t resist the change. They hitch a ride on it and harness the momentum.

Joel Manby, SeaWorld’s CEO, is banking on the premise that the American public will come to SeaWorld’s parks in larger numbers if he joins our cause instead of resisting it, and if SeaWorld is a change agent for the good of animals. He’s exactly right, and I give him tremendous credit for his foresight.

As I wrote in The Humane Economy, the film “Blackfish” proved to be extraordinary in the annals of documentary filmmaking. It is exceedingly rare for an advocacy film to get a long run, and even rarer for it to get tens of millions of viewers, as “Blackfish” did, thanks to serial rebroadcasting by CNN. Director Gabriela Cowperthwaite changed the dynamics of this debate overnight with her potent film, following closely on the heels of David Kirby’s Death at SeaWorld, featuring my former colleague and orca scientist Naomi Rose. That book offered a hard-hitting critique of the history and operations of the company.

During my discussions with Manby, I was clear that the agreement we forged should deal with all animals – not just orcas. That’s why this announcement not only promises more help for manatees, sea lions, and other marine creatures in distress, but it also connects consumers to these issues through their diets. Starting soon, all SeaWorld food offerings will be cage-free for eggs and gestation-crate-free for pork, all seafood will be more sustainably sourced, and there will be more vegetarian and vegan options.

While the remaining captive orcas will live out their lives at SeaWorld, the company is phasing out theatrical performances at its three parks in San Diego, San Antonio, and Orlando, and spectators will instead see orca enrichment and exercise activities. In a nutshell, this is essentially an end to orca shows, with no orca breeding, no orcas at any new parks, and, during the transition period, a better environment for the remaining whales.

SeaWorld and The HSUS still have some disagreements. But we’ve found an important set of issues to agree upon. The sunsetting of orcas in captivity is a game changer for our movement, one that’s been a long time coming, and one that is only possible because of your advocacy and participation. I am immensely excited about this announcement and I hope you are too. Please sign here to show your support and share the news.


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  1. Christopher Ewing says:

    HSUS, BUILD sanctuaries for ALL the captive cetaceans. SW has the money, Lets get them OUT of the concrete tanks. yes we know they cant be set “free” but they can at least get their dignity back in the ocean waters. Tilly and Corky should be 1st ones in a sanctuary !
    Since most are related to Tilly anyway? they can join him. he will Finally have his family in his last days Finally someone woke up at SeaWorld ! Lets get it done #blackfishmovement

    • Melissa says:

      Tilly is very ill – and likely would not survive that scenario. Lolita needs to be moved away from Miami Seaquarium and to a better facility as well. SeaWorld would be better than the horrible conditions she’s endured for over 30 years – yet we hear little about her.

    • Rachel says:

      I agree 100% Christopher. And don’t forget Lolita — she’s been in the business
      13 years longer than Tilly…. Amazing spirit they have to both have lasted
      this long in this kind of deprivation. It’s heartbreaking….

  2. Cori Ryan says:

    This is such wonderful news – well done and thank you! What a shame the existing Orcas can’t be released to sea sanctuaries though? There is no reason why this could not happen – why should they end their lives stuck in those tiny concrete prisons…

  3. Mary Lou says:

    Not to coin a phrase, but; this is huge! The fact that they have made this agreement gives me a glimmer of hope. Thank you onall your efforts and I wonder just how exactly they are going to implement these changes.

  4. Ronald L says:

    It’s way more interesting and educational to see whales and other animals in their natural habitats. I’m glad to hear Seaworld is finally doing the right thing by rescuing get and rehabilitating animals instead of imprisoning and forcing animals to perform shows. Let’s hope Seaworld will actually do it and do it right for the animals.

  5. June Bird Killington says:


    Many thousands are speaking up for the captive performing dolphins trapped in Sea World Gold Coast Australia with the help of international and local celebrities but we also need your help and voice.

    Jane Goodall says “SeaWorld Needs To Be Immediately Shut Down” as does Carrie Fisher, Harry Styles, Sting, Bianca Jagger, Martina Navratilova, Anthony La Paglia, Simon Cowell, Shailene Woodley, Pamela Anderson, Olivia Newton John, Ricky Gervais, Edie Falco, Steve Backshall, Bryan Adams, Matt Damon, Matthew Modine, Susan Sarandon, Kelly Slater, Willy Nelson, Cher,Rachel Hunter, Tommy Lee, Jennifer Aniston, Maggie Q, Nicholas Hoult, Montel Williams, Kim Basinger, Rob Zombie, Sir Brian May, Stephen Fry, Jessica Chastain, Paul Rudd, Woody Harrelson, Rita Wilson, Ben Stiller, Robin Williams, Lea Michele, Richard Dean Anderson, David Crosby, Courtney Cox, Dave Navarro, Zach Braff, Wynonna Judd, Kathy Griffin, Moby, Jessica Biel, Mariska Hargitay, James Gandolfini, John Leguizamo, Russell Simmons, Olivia Wilde, Scout LaRue Willis, Kelly Le Brock, Russell Brand, Joan Jett, Howard Stern, Aaron Paul (from ‘Breaking Bad’), Kathy Najimy, Olivia Hussey, Kathy Najimy, Niki Taylor, Hayden Panettiere, Mayim Bialik, Meg Matthews, Chet Faker, Wil Anderson, Todd McKenny, Christine Anu, Steve Kilbey, Marcia Hines, Sia, Tyson Beckford, Sinnitta, Ewan McGregor, Matt Goss, Leona Lewis, Angie Bowie, Steve-O, Conan O’Brien, Elvira, Josh Groban, Jason Biggs, Motley Crue, Arianna Grande, Krysten Ritter, Chloe Lattanzi, Sharni Vinson, Samantha Fox, Alexandra Paul, Gina Liano, Jonathan Coleman, Alyce Platt, The Veronicas, Tracey Spicer, Adam Zwar, Lincoln Lewis, Phil Jamieson (Grinspoon), Anthony Ackroyd, Livinia Nixon, Jane Barnes, Former Miss Universe Australia Laura Dundovic, Havana Brown, Simone Buchanan, Cheyenne Tozzi, Caitlin Stasey, Mike Carlton, Silvana Philippoussis, Ella Hooper, Bianca Dye, Barry DuBois, Arj Barker, Jamie Reyne, Peking Duk, Annalise Braakensiek all say:


    “The whole world is up in arms about Sea World and other aquaprisons. It’s time that Australians opened their eyes and became educated to the cruelty of trapping and breeding dolphins as money-making slaves for greedy businesspeople”.

    ‘SEAWORLD SHUT DOWN on Facebook. The First & Only Campaign Against Sea World in Australia’ .

    Trevor Long, Marine Science Director at Sea World Gold Coast says: “Dolphins aren’t some amazing creature, in the wild they just rape and rape and rape”. (Quoted from Gold Coast Bulletin interview January 2015).

    Please help us to speak up for the captive performing dolphins at Sea World on the Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia.

    We love them rescuing cetaceans but we loathe them keeping dolphins as captives in their aquaprison.

    The dolphins need to be rehabilitated and freed or taken to a safe sanctuary/bay/cove paid for by Sea World to live out their lives without human interference.

    India, Croatia, Hungary New York, South Carolina, Bolivia, Chile, Costa Rica, Cyprus, Nicaragua, Slovenia, Switzerland, Brazil, Poland, Luxembourg, Norway and the U.K have already banned cetaceans in captivity and so far there are over 19,300 signatures on the petition and a Facebook page with over 13,700 followers. Also on Twitter @seaworldisevil with over 8,600 followers. The dolphins have been caught from the ocean and brought to tanks/lagoons and are also bred in captivity where they are forced to perform for paying customers and given dead fish but only if they do tricks. All to make money for greedy Sea World business people”.

    Sea World Gold Coast Australia – Keeping dolphins as prisoners since the 70s”

  6. Allison SHELVEY says:

    I am over the moon by this, massive step up by SeaWorld and a massive boost to ensuring no marine animals are held in any park. Just goes to show media and people power is effective, Blackfish was excellent in highlighting this issue and bringing it to the fore. I for one applaude the foresight of the new CEO of SeaWorld and hope this continues and he makes SeaWorld an advocate for marine animals rather than their prison!

  7. lisa Griffin says:

    About time and be sure they have proper care and spoiling tor remainder of their years

  8. Rose says:

    Ringling Bro retirement should never be mentioned without saying the animals will still be in chains ; subject to bullhooks and bled dry for profit. This does not take away from the victory or the thank yous. It just teaches about the way – the long slow way of change making – so that people understand and always consider the economics when dealing with animal exploiters..

  9. Sally Palmer says:

    Such a significant indicator that people are learning from hard-fought efforts to find and present humane economy facts that change how humans see and treat animal beings. It’s the miracle of hard work making reality crystal clear and the human and animal spirit shining through a long period of darkness.

  10. Cheryl Hunter says:

    It’s about time that the killer whales will no longer be forced to live in captivity and perform!!! It never made sense to me how Sea World could be so helpful with marine life rescues, yet be so cruel to Orca Whales!! I’m still confused.

  11. Cindy MacDougall says:

    I’m so happy that SeaWorld has decided to do the right thing!!
    I encourage support of the Humane Assoc. so glad to be a tiny part of this.
    I will once again be able to take my grandchildren to SeaWorld!!

    • Jean Colison says:

      The animals you watch are still imprisoned living severely restricted lives, nothing close to the lives of those living naturally.

  12. The Peace Patch says:

    Congratulations and a giant boatload of thanks for all your hard work…cheers! 🙂

  13. Julie Dulak says:

    We need to get NOAA to do a pre-emptive import ban. Remember that in the text of the Blue World Project that was in front of the CA Coastal Commission, there was a section that said not to acquire any wild caught Orcas captured after February 12, ******2014******* The Russians just caught nearly a dozen Orcas that I fear Seaworld will say it is now “Rescuing”, some of them possibly pregnant.…/10/Th14a-10-2015.pdf

  14. Donna says:

    Where will the orcas go that they have now ???????

    • Julie Dulak says:

      Probably stay RIGHT where they are while they figure out a way to import pregnant ones under the guise of being “rescues”.

  15. Leslie Duplessis says:

    Sea world had no choice but to surrender. The movie Blackfish brought them to their knees as the world watched in horror !!! Their commercial didn’t work and they were loosing money. It is great news to hear that there is going to be an end to whale captivity !!! Our children watched in horror what was happening at Sea World and not a family wanted to contribute to that horror. It is my hope that changes will happen all across the board as we have animal suffering in all parts of the world. Our dogs and cats in shelters need help. We need mandatory laws for our animals and to have those punished for animal cruelty. It is our voices and our perseverance in this fight for the defenseless that will bring on CHANGE. We need people to step out in defense of our animals. We need animal education for those who have never been taught how to treat animals. We need stronger laws that put people who kill or cause inhumane treatments to animals in JAIL. I want ANIMAL CRUELTY LAWS IN EFFECT AND SEEN AS A CRIME !!! Just like Sea World came to it’s knees we need other business who exploit animals for money. Puppy Mills and pet stores across our country …..they need to close and be charged !! Recently in the state of Massachusetts the Mayor of Boston pass the “Puppy Mill Law’ making it illegal. It is great news to hear of our killer whales and Wayne Pacelle will continue to make a difference. He is definitely a FORCE for our animals.

  16. David Bernazani says:

    While I am certainly happy to hear this progress at SeaWorld, I couldn’t help noticing one glaring omission: what about the dolphins?

  17. Jeremy says:


  18. Angela Rae says:

    This is incredible news, I am speechless. I am a little skeptical (still), but hopeful that Seaworld will make these changes and set the premiere example to other Marine parks around the world to end this madness. Offering Vegan food choices is almost as big news. My single only remaining hope is that this decision allows them to once and for all, release Tokitae (aka Lolita) back to her J-Pod here in the Pacific Northwest (via a rehabilitation Seapen first).

    Blessing to the Humane Society for your work. Thank you to everyone who ever signed a petition, tweeted, blogged, wrote letters, called, led boycotts, shared Blackfish and even prayed. Finally our efforts have resulted in helping these wild, amazing, precious creatures. Prayers for Tillicum, that he may not suffer.

    • David Bernazani says:

      Angela: Lolita is imprisoned in the Miami Seaquarium, not SeaWorld.
      She has been captive there since 1970, in a tank that violates the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) standards for size requirements.
      Seaquarium owners have reservations for a special place in Hell for the way they’ve exploited Lolita for so many decades. And how enough people can be so clueless as to continue buy tickets enough to support this sad, shabby place is beyond astonishing.

  19. Maureen Patil says:

    I have been to Sea World a couple times in my lifetime. I saw the movie blackfish. Yes, every performing animal in any wildlife show are subjected to some kind of cruelty to get them to perform. And in turn the animals have injured or killed their trainers. There should have been strict guidelines in training animals. And there should have been limitations set in releasing animals after a period of time. Because of greedy businessmen, our children will not be able to see these amazing creatures. After all, their natural habitat is in the ocean away from people.

    • David Bernazani says:

      Maureen: What are you talking about? Of course our children will be able to see orcas. Thousands of people see them every year, from whale-watching boats, in their natural environments, as they should be. Just because places like SeaWorld will stop exploiting them doesn’t mean we’ll never see them. It just means there won’t be an easy afternoon commute to gape at them in a swimming pool. And that’s a good thing.

      • tired of this country says:

        I will never be able to.

      • Curt Poyfair says:

        Yeah!!! They don’t adjust to the wild. Releasing them would be cruel and they will die a lonely death. This is why HSUS wins because of its misinformed donars. Learn more before you speak.

      • Curt Poyfair says:

        Again if you don’t know what you’re saying you should really shut up. Even though at the present time orcas are not endangered, with the over fishing and polluting of are seas ,and global warming.Their habitat is being destroyed. Eventually you won’t be able to see them at. All. But hey you saved them from sea world.

  20. Judy Sigmon says:

    Its a start for SeaWorld to finally step up to the consequences they set in place however the captivity of the whales that they currently have is unacceptable. I think the release of the whales should be the next step. Captivity is the result of the behavioral problems with the whales and surely there is a return to a wild program that could be establish for their release. Its so sad knowing that their enrichment was limited and will decline even more so.

  21. Patrick Brauckmann says:

    Wayne and HSI,

    If you asked these mammals if they wanted to stay with their captors at SeaWorld, they would answer with a resounding “no” in their language. Why are you not pushing for their release? They are not owned. Your support is like endorsing the owners of the old slave plantations of the south who put out a news release that said, “we are no longer breading our slaves, but they are going to stay here at the plantation and teach northerners about slavery.”

  22. Suzy Brady says:

    Way to go Wayne! What a happy day.

  23. John says:

    what about captive dolphins? they are not a part of this agreement ?

  24. Lydia says:

    Seaworld opened in 1988 in San Antonio, Texas. Thousands of poor and under-privileged children who never left or could leave San Antonio, were able to see, for the first time, all the wonderful marine animals that Seaworld brought with them. Thousands of children were taken by their schools to Seaworld at reduced prices and they loved the park. They would not have seen these marine animals if they had not seen them at Seaworld. I thank Seaworld for all the good things they do. They love their marine animals like you love your pets. I find it very sad that people say such horrible things about Seaworld, when all the employees treat the marine animals with care and love. I worked at Seaworld and they employed so many happy and grateful employees too. The HSUS needs to go after people who really treat animals bad. Again, thank you Seaworld for bringing your marine animals to all of us in San Antonio.

  25. Jeff Kunz says:

    I’m delighted that no further breeding of captive orcas is to be done by Sea World. However,
    It seems to me that this HSUS ‘pragmatism’ alliance or partnership with Sea World is only helping to extend the suffering for all of the Sea World captive species. It’s being reported that Sea World stock is up. This partnership is providing good PR and enables the continuation of Sea World’s business model in whatever form that it takes. It will mean that their other (fish) captive populations on display will need to be replenished as predation and deaths occur while in captivity. It also means that vast amounts of animals will continue to be harvested, subjugated and killed to feed their captive species and park visitors. Having ‘vegan’ food options available at these Sea World complexes makes no sense. Ethical veganism doesn’t see animals as commodities or a resource for human enterprise, regardless of some hybrid approach between entertainment and rehab conservation man-agement. Orcas will remain captive and will likely die in captivity. Other dolphins remain in captivity.
    In my opinion, HSUS should have respected the ‘Blackfish’ movement and worked to shut Sea World down. I don’t think that this infusion of Sea World money to be allocated toward other campaigns is going to help the orcas, dolphins and pinnipeds remaining in captivity around the world.
    This compassion-washing only helps to form new business models basking in the glow of animal welfare and conservation, justifying a broader expansion of an animal entertainment infrastructure that must satisfy its shareholders. Animals will continue to suffer and die.

  26. Mary Finelli says:

    “all seafood will be more sustainably sourced”

    All this means for the countless animals who are used as seafood there is that their species can continuously be cruelly caught or farmed, and killed.

    Perhaps they will come from SeaWorld’s “massive fish farm project that is resulting in many biological deformities”: as noted in this article about “the many problems with the proposed farm”:

    Wherever they come from, fish and other aquatic animals exploited for food suffer immensely. Science has shown that fish are sentient. They suffer terror and pain, and they do not want to be harmed. They deserve our respect and protection, not the perpetuation of the inhumane exploitation of them.

  27. Anirban (aka Abner) Bhattacharya says:

    It’s better to see orcas in wild & Seworld should limit orcas & whales to those who can’t survive in wild such as a wounded whale but if orca can live in wild, then release them. With whales and dolphins, if they can safely release the dolphins, whales back into the oceans and can survive in wild oceans, then release them. I have been to the Marineland Zoo Aquarium in Niagara Falls and I believe Marineland takes good care of the beluga whales, orcas and dolphins there though there has been controversy in news.I would rather see animals in the wild than in zoos, so much of the wild is gone that we have no choice but to put them in zoos and aquariums to keep them from going extinct.

    It is better to see animals in wild, but when so much of habitat is gone as has happened with tigers and lions, we need zoos and wildlife preserves to keep them from going extinct. We also need experts in lions, tigers, marine mammals working in zoos and aquariums. I’d rather see a lion, tiger or wolf in the wild as opposed to a zoo but with wild cats such as tigers & lions, so much of their habitat is gone with farming in Africa that there isn’t much habitat left to save. There are as known, more tigers in captivity than in wild & the only way we can prevent their extinction are zoos-wildlife preserves are the best choice. If we can train lions, tigers who are in zoos to live in what ïs left of their wildlife habitat as what happened with Christian the Lion (raised in London) & they can survive there, then good.

    But complicated to try to train a tiger, lion or other animal which has lived life in zoo to live in wild and there are few zoologists who are specialists as the late George Adamson (Born Free) who can do this. So many risks in training these lions and tigers to live in wild such as hunting & killing prey, avoiding getting killed by rivals, hyenas and so on. As known, no 2 cats are the same & each has their own personality and intelligence.

    Zoos and aquariums must hire more experts, such as having people with George Adamson qualifications working with big cats. Toronto Zoo breeded polar bear cubs @ that zoo. They also have pandas. I liked seeing the white lions, pandas and polar bears when I visited the Toronto Zoo, but if these animals can be trained to live in what is left of the wild, then release them, as I have their photos.

    Zoos and aquariums are educational but they must be more than that in that they must also be about helping put animals back into wild. Seaworld must also work to release orcas into wild oceans. Zoos and aquariums must be about education, protecting endangered species and working with conservationists in returning animals into wild-they must not be about money and profits.

    But what do posters think of my idea-Breed as many lions and tigers in zoos as possible. When the lions and tigers become a certain age, instead of keeping them in zoos, put them in what’s left of wild with zoologists to try to help them become wild. Yes, there will be a 95% death rate as many lions and tigers won’t make it in wild, so it will be for zoologists to see high failure rates, but we learn by failures. Some lions and tigers will be successfully introduced in wild and some lions and tigers will make it. In nature, many animals do not make it to adulthood so death is common there. We must do what we can to bring tigers and lions, along with other animals back into the wild.

  28. Lauren Magnee says:

    I appreciate that they will offer more vegan food, but I would still never visit SeaWorld.

  29. starnick13 says:

    this information is really helpful!!!!!!

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