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SeaWorld said today that it would end its controversial orca breeding program and that the killer whales currently living at its facilities will be the last.

The announcement comes several months after the marine park operator said it would phase out the theatrical shows for which it has been widely criticized, and instead begin implementing educational shows in a more “natural” setting.

Killer whale and trainer during a Shamu performance at Seaworld in Orlando, Florida. (Photo Credit: David R. Tribble)

Killer whale and trainer during a Shamu performance at Seaworld in Orlando, Florida. (Photo Credit: David R. Tribble)

SeaWorld had been looking to expand its San Diego facility and in October, the California Coastal Commission approved the $100 million expansion, but only on the condition that the company stopped its captive breeding program. At the time, SeaWorld opposed that condition.

But, today, SeaWorld said it would end the breeding program not only at the San Diego facility, but also at its two other parks in Orlando, Florida and San Antonio, Texas.

SeaWorld Ends Orca Shows After Backlash

SeaWorld has been under fire for its treatment of orcas, fueled in part by the 2013 documentary Blackfish, which focused on the death of orca trainer Dawn Brancheau, who was killed by a 22-foot, 12,000-pound orca named Tilikum in 2010.

SeaWorld currently has 29 orcas. In an editorial published in the Los Angeles Times, SeaWorld President and CEO Joel Manby said that none of the orcas currently at SeaWorld would be set free, writing that they would likely not fare well in the wild. “In fact, no orca or dolphin born under human care has ever survived release into the wild,” Manby wrote.

In addition, Manby said that the company would be partnering with the Humane Society to work against “commercial whaling and seal hunts, shark finning and ocean pollution.”

The Humane Society of the United States’ President and CEO Wayne Pacelle, called the decision “momentous” in an editorial on Huffington Post. He added that SeaWorld would also work to help other marine life, like manatees, and also make changes to its food offerings. Seafood will be “more sustainably sourced,” eggs will be cage-free and it will offer more vegetarian and vegan options.

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