MIAMI – Following years of criticism and the death of one of its trainers, SeaWorld Entertainment announced Thursday that it would stop breeding killer whales. The decision was widely applauded by animal rights groups, but lamented by an organization representing aquariums as a hindrance to the company's scientific research and rescue efforts. Here are some of their comments:
"SeaWorld's decision to end captive breeding and make no additional wild captures in the future, means that the current generation of captive Orcas in their parks will be the last. The partnership they are making with the Humane Society, with its focus on rescue, rehabilitation, and advocacy on important marine issues not only represents a change in their business model, but an exciting new direction for the company. These changes are something that advocates have been urging for years, and I think SeaWorld will find that visitors will reward their actions with a renewed interest in the parks."
— Rep. Adam Schiff, D-California, who authored the Orca Responsibility and Care Advancement Act in 2015.
"For far too long, these intelligent mammals have been subjected to the heartwrenching practice of being kept captive in cruelly small tanks solely for public entertainment value. After years of public outcry and many letters, meetings, amendments, and even legislation, I am thrilled to see the wave of opposition build to where SeaWorld finally has done the right thing and ended their captive breeding program of orcas."
— Rep. Jared Huffman, D-California, who co-sponsored the ORCA Act in 2015.
"This decision means that in 30 or 40 years, after the last of SeaWorld's orcas have passed away, future generations of American children will no longer be able to see and experience the awe-inspiring physicality and intelligence of these apex predators up close and be inspired to help conserve them in the wild. Much of the significant scientific research SeaWorld has conducted over the years that has taught us most of what we know today about orcas and cannot be done in the wild will come to an end, and the cutting edge technology and veterinary knowledge of whales SeaWorld now maintains and employs in its rescue and rehabilitation work with wild cetaceans will also be impaired."
— Kathleen Dezio, president and CEO of the Alliance for Marine Mammal Parks and Aquariums.
"The decision to end its orca breeding program globally and to commit to ending the collection of exhibit animals from the wild, as well as to a "no orca" policy should SeaWorld expand its brand into new international markets, is a monumental and important first step forward in achieving a more humane business model for the company."
— Dr. Naomi Rose, marine mammal specialists at the Washington-based Animal Welfare Institute.
"Keeping and breeding large, intelligent animals in small underwater cages for the sake of entertainment and profit is simply unethical. Consumers have woken up and sent a clear message to SeaWorld that they won't pay to watch animal cruelty in action. It is encouraging that SeaWorld seems to have finally taken notice."
— Angus Wong of SumOfUs, an international consumer watchdog organization.
"We don't come to this discussion, or this collaboration with any naivete or any lack of knowledge about the operations of SeaWorld. We didn't want to be endlessly mired in conflict with SeaWorld. The goal was to make progress for animal rights. ... This is a monumental announcement."
— Wayne Pacelle, CEO of the Humane Society of the United States, which announced a conservation and education partnership with SeaWorld on Thursday.