Under mounting public pressure, SeaWorld CEO Joel Manby announced today in a Los Angeles Times opinion piece that the theme parks would stop breeding orcas. This announcement could not have come at a more appropriate time given recent news the group is still making Tilikum perform despite a life-threatening illness.

SeaWorld, orcas, orca whales, killer whales, whales in captivity, Shamu

“We are proud of contributing to the evolving understanding of one of the world’s largest marine mammals. Now we need to respond to the attitudinal change that we helped to create,” said Manby.

Related: Tilikum still made to perform at SeaWorld despite life-threatening illness

The 2013 documentary Blackfish, which chronicled the life of Tilikum, an orca who spent many years at Orlando’s SeaWorld and killed trainer Dawn Brancheau in 2010, helped turn the tide of public opinion against the large theme parks. Although Brancheau’s family spoke out against the documentary, as did SeaWorld, activists called for an end to the entertainment company’s famed killer whale shows.

Manby’s opinion piece said the orcas currently in their care would remain at the parks, as they would likely die if released into the ocean. SeaWorld currently owns 29 of the large oceanic dolphins. Instead of theatrical shows, SeaWorld will soon offer orca encounters centering around conservation, with the feel of an “engaging documentary.”

The CEO, who took the helm of the company in 2015, also offered a positive outlook for the future: SeaWorld will join forces with the Humane Society of the United States to conserve marine life at risk.

“More than 3,000 species are endangered, and hundreds are lost every year. Some scientists predict that, within a century, 50% of large mammals will be extinct…Together, we will work against commercial whaling and seal hunts, shark finning and ocean pollution,” said Manby.

SeaWorld said they will work to restore a reputation for research and conversation rather than captivity, and also announced plans to shift their concentration more to wildlife rescue.

“The Humane Society recognizes the critical work SeaWorld performs as one of the largest rescue operations in the world. SeaWorld will increase its focus on rescue operations – so that the thousands of stranded marine mammals like dolphins and sea lions that cannot be released back to the wild will have a place to go,” said Manby.

Via The Guardian

Images via Wikimedia Commons (1,2)