Due to social pressure SeaWorld has decided to end the breeding of orcas. They currently have 24 orcas in their care, and have announced they will be the last generation. This is a great win for animal activists and the makers of documentaries like Blackfish.
We can’t give SeaWorld too much credit though. They were also facing pressure from legislators. Last year they applied for a $100 million expansion that was approved only under the condition that they end their breeding program. As you can see, they probably did not have much of a choice but to end their breeding.
SeaWorld will not release their current orcas as they will die if they’re released. This is very similar, in my opinion, to Barnum and Bailey’s circus who said they will end the use of their elephants by 2017. They receive social praise, but at the same time they plan on ending the use three years later, which drives people to come see the elephants one last time. Then, they do not plan to send the elephants to a sanctuary, but rather they’re going to build them their own sanctuary. This makes me think there is still a future of performing for these “retired” elephants; they will just no longer be on the road.
While SeaWorld claims releasing the orcas will kill them, I am sure there is a viable way to enclose them in an area of the ocean using nets or some other kind of technology. However, that’s not as profitable as keeping them in captivity until their final days.