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SeaWorld To Stop Breeding Orcas, Phase Out Whale Shows

SeaWorld To Stop Breeding Orcas, Phase Out Whale Shows
SeaWorld To Stop Breeding Orcas, Phase Out Whale Shows
SeaWorld To Stop Breeding Orcas, Phase Out Whale Shows GUESTS:Erik Anderson, business and environment reporter, KPBS Samantha Hagio, director of wildlife abuse campaigns, Humane Society of the United States Jeffrey Ventre, former trainer, SeaWorld Ashley Byrne, campaign specialist, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals

Our top story on Midday Edition, the world have come undertreatment his political pressure -- especially following the release of the Blackfish documentary. Now, they have given in. The world has announced that they will no longer conduct. To show the famous by Shamel, and they will also no longer breed orchis. That means when the current orchis die, they will have no more. The financial losses suffered by the park cause the world to believe it was time to make the change. Joining me this morning with more on the story is a previous environmental reporter turned out. Thank you for coming in. My pleasure, Tom. What do we know now that we did not know before? We know this is a pretty remarkable change for a company that has used killer whales, or orchis as their face for a number of decades. Shamel is Sonoma -- synonymous with the the world -- Sea World brand. Became to some point, and announced today in a well orchestrated press release to her that they were going to stop using killer whales and their shows, they would stop their captive breeding program, which is what they used to replace killer whales, since they haven't taken amount of the [ Indiscernible ] for decades. And, they would allow whales to die in captivity and not replace them. For what reasons has -- have been given for this reason? It is a, nation of a number of things. They are responding to public outrage about the idea, which they say in the term of receipts. Sea World CEO Joel Manby said in a release statement that it was time for the world to recognize the environment and change. I think it is a good thing that begins people coming up in our society are more concerned about animals. They are more concerned about conservation efforts. I actually think Sea World should be at the epicenter of that. We should be -- helpfully those efforts. I think some people are uncomfortable with the Orcas was something we needed to listen to, and we needed to leave off. Erik , among the reasons that they want to do this, they were being hurt financially, weren't they? There was no question that they were suffering -- their attendance numbers suffering over years, and there was a withering campaign from the people for the ethical treatment of animals. The Blackfish documentary played well. It got wider solution on the Netflix platform. A lot of people had a chance to see that and were reacting to that as well. Let me read a couple of comments that KPBS got on its Facebook page. Heiress Sarah Hagerty. She says, this is devastating. One big blow to conservation efforts that could save species around the world. I wish people would start fighting against the real problems and leave Sea World alone. Sea World is a conservation organization trying to save marine species that are doing nothing wrong. Kevin Flynn said, big congrats to them for catching up to the culture. Now on to other marine mammals -- dolphins, sea lions, and belugas. Has anyone noticed how they exploit the belugas image exactly the way they did the Orcas? Same crime, different victims. That is an example of some of the reaction that we are getting to the the world decision. You talked about PETA -- people for the of the treatment of animals. Another is the Humane Society. It seems as though they are partnering with Sea World now. They announced it jointly with the United States human society. I think in a corporate fashion, they want to find someone in the critical realm that was not the PETA organization. They, in fact were dissatisfied with today's decision saying that Sea World should give up there Orcas altogether. The Humane Society of the United States coming together with the -- Sea World officials, and will partner and work together in the future. This is Wayne Pacelle, the CEO of Humane Society. We are really focused on not bringing additional animals into that marmot. I think it is really momentous that the world -- Sea World estopped captive treatment of Orcas. They've already stopped while captured that the video -- decades ago. This will sunset the use of Orcas, which have been central to the brand image of Sea World What Sea World will do as a result is work on conservation programs and interpretive displays that will highlight the plight of wild bills and other marine mammals. Just a couple more sessions. Sea World filed a lawsuit against the coastal commission for telling it that it could no longer breed Orcas. I assume they haven't dropped the lawsuit. Expect the lawsuit is still active, but I also would kind of assume that part of the decision today was a result of the legal action that was filed by the coastal commission. The coastal commission basically said, we will renew your permit to operate as a theme park in the coastal zone at -- the three-mile zone. But as a condition, we will require you to stop your captive breeding program -- breeding programs. Sea World did not respond well at the time. I suspect that is still in the courts, but as a result of today's decision, it will probably go away. Finally, I think you will hear more on the city. There is a press conference at 1:00. What you think will come out of that? Yes. A lawmaker in town today. Senator will be talking about a piece of legislation that puts into law what Sea World is saying today -- that California law for fake captive breeding programs and no longer allowed, no longer allow you to ship orcas to other facilities around the United States. It is a Orcas protection act, and they will introduce it in legislation. The lawmakers will build on it, and it puts into California law the things that the world -- Sea World was talking today. Erik Anderson is the environment reporter, and he is covering the story today. Think you very much. Your welcome. The fact that Sea World will no longer have Orcas shows . Joining me now is Samantha -- Samantha Hagio, and she is the director of wild life of the is campaigns for the human society. Samantha, thank you for joining us. Thank you for having me. First, give me your reaction to what has happened at Sea World The are incredibly excited with the news [ Indiscernible - static ] Erik Anderson made the point that the human society is actually partnering with Sea World to bring this about. Can you tell me more about that? Sure. The world -- Sea World will be joining the the the human society of United states, and the advocacy campaign toward marine wildlife such as commercial whaling, commercial [ Indiscernible ], and other cruelties. They will also prevent their policies of the parts for the million visitors. A lot of people defended people saying that the Orcas on display cause people to be more sympathetic with Orcas in the wild. This was actually a conservation device. Do you disagree with that? I do disagree with that. The -- Sea World definitely is an opportunity to view the animals, but the animals do not plan -- belong on display to perform tricks for the crowd. It is not right. I think the Blackfish film, izzard as a catalyst -- it served as a catalyst and changing it. The world -- Sea World will have the work is on display until they die, correct? [ Indiscernible - static ] I am sorry. We are having a problem with her telephone line. Thank you very much to Samantha Hagio. We will move on to Jeffrey Ventre. Jeffrey Ventre is a former Sea World trainer, and we have a modeling. Jeffrey, thank you for being on KPBS midday. Thank you very much. Jeffrey, I am asking everybody, what is your basic response by this announcement from Sea World I think it is a step in the right direction. Partnering with Humane Society is a great way to step forward with a conservation group. I am generally excited. [ Indiscernible ] I think a good first up, and I think it is indicative of awareness that Blackfish has helped create worldwide. It really has. Documentary, Blackfish, came out, it became a huge thing for Sea World. Their profits were hurt. Anything you want to say about the film? Which, I think you were a part of, correct you I was one of the primary connectives and Blackfish. It was seen by over to hundred million people globally. It is become a movement right now. I am honored to be with the former trainers and films. Lot of the preservation's about keeping whales in captivity, even when we worked at Sea World. I'm glad that they brought in a new CEO that was both enough to make changes. I do think that more changes needed. Think this was a great step in the right direction. Like other people said, keeping whales in captivity doesn't make sense. Finally, why does that not make sense? Why is it the -- inhumane to keep a sea mammal like that in a man-made tank? For example, Chris Eckstein is currently Celt -- dying. These animals are used to swimming over 100 miles a day in the wild. Spend their entire life together. In a the world situation, moving from park to park. Sea World is breeding I world animals with no conservation at all. In of the killer whales have been bred any conservation value. Seven resident killer whales are Icelandic whales and have no natural [ Indiscernible ]. They wouldn't normally interact with each other and about. Really, they were bred for show purposes, and they are affected pieces to the show. But, it is simply time to move on. As long as they are in captivity, they break their teeth, they require dental care, and they the lives -- they lead lives not comparable to what they do in a while. Jeffrey Ventre is a the -- Sea World trainer. Your welcome. By the way, we're talking about Sea World not only stopping their killing shows, that will stop breeding orcas in Orlando and at the San Diego Park. Our final guest on the segment is Ashley Byrne was a campaign specialist for PETA, people for the ethical treatment of animals. Good afternoon. Thank you for having me on. What is your reaction to the news of the day? Sea World has taken a good step forward, but more must follow. Trend -- Sea World could act more for seaside sanctuaries where they can enjoy a more natural life where they can feel the current of the ocean, and have more room to move around. It is unacceptable to keep them in these barren concrete tanks for the rest of their life. Let me get you to respond to one of the comments that KPBS got on with its Facebook page. It says, now onto other marine mammals, dolphins, sea lions, and belugas. Same crime, different victims. He seems to think that Sea World should not keep any marine mammals captive at its Park. What you say to that? Absolutely. Agree. The world -- Sea World tiny tanks are detrimental to all animals -- for the we're talking about orchis, dolphins, or any other animals at turn six. -- Sea World. [ Indiscernible ] a tone for the damage they have done, that a ban on orkut breeding is a strong for step, and creating a more natural life for these animals remain if the right thing to do. I should mention that KPBS Midday Edition didn't invite a spokesperson from the world to join us today, but they said they could not join us. We just heard from Ashley Byrne, was a campaign specialist for PETA. Ashley Byrne, thank you very much.

Midday Edition Friday: SeaWorld To Stop Breeding Orcas, Phase Out Whale Shows
KPBS Midday Edition Friday Host Mark Sauer discusses big changes at SeaWorld with Lori Weisberg, who covers the tourism and hospitality industry for the San Diego Union Tribune.

SeaWorld Entertainment Inc. announced that as of Thursday, orcas will no longer be bred at its parks in San Diego or anywhere else in the country, and theatrical shows involving the marine mammals will be phased out.

The announced changes brought SeaWorld widespread praise, but it was not universal, with a prominent animal rights organization demanding more.

SeaWorld has also teamed up with the Humane Society of the United States in an effort to educate visitors about animal welfare and conservation issues through programs at the parks and expanded advocacy for whales, seals and other marine creatures in the wild.

"SeaWorld has introduced more than 400 million guests to orcas, and we are proud of our part in contributing to the human understanding of these animals," SeaWorld Entertainment, Inc. President and CEO Joel Manby said.

"As society's understanding of orcas continues to change, SeaWorld is changing with it. By making this the last generation of orcas in our care and re-imagining how guests will encounter these beautiful animals, we are fulfilling our mission of providing visitors to our parks with experiences that matter."


SeaWorld's about-face comes less than three months after park officials filed a lawsuit against the California Coastal Commission over a ruling that would end the breeding of captive killer whales at its local theme park. The commission's October order was tacked onto its approval of a permit for the expansion of its orca tanks.

SeaWorld had agreed earlier to not increase the park's orca population, except through occasional captive births or rescues authorized by government agencies. Park officials said they have not captured orcas in the wild for decades.

At a news conference, part president John Reilly said the decisions were difficult to make.

"This is about doing the best thing for our whales, our guests, our employees and SeaWorld," Reilly said. "We love our whales, and so do many of our visitors at SeaWorld, but we also know that whales have become a growing concern for many people."

SeaWorld has suffered dipping attendance since the release of the documentary film "Blackfish," which focused on the treatment of orcas at the park. The 2013 film explores the 2010 death of trainer Dawn Brancheau at SeaWorld Orlando. She was pulled under water and drowned by Tilikum, a performing killer whale.

The theme park on Mission Bay has been the frequent target of animal rights organizations and was criticized after a San Diego employee posed as an animal rights activist to spy on People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

PETA President Ingrid E. Newkirk said Thursday the halting of SeaWorld's orca breeding program was not enough. The organization has pushed for captive killer whales to be released into "sea sanctuaries."

"For decades orcas, dolphins, beluga whales, seals and many other animals have suffered in SeaWorld confinement, and to do right by them now, SeaWorld must open the tanks to ocean sanctuaries so that these long-suffering animals may have some semblance of a life outside their prison tanks," Newkirk said. "SeaWorld has taken a step forward but more must come."

Two other animal rights groups, the Animal Legal Defense Fund and Animal Welfare Institute, applauded SeaWorld's decision.

Assemblyman Richard Bloom, D-Santa Monica, said at the news conference he planned to reintroduce his legislation that would permanently ban captive breeding of orcas throughout the state, since different leadership at the theme park could reverse the new policy. The legislation stalled before coming to a vote two years ago.

"I feel I owe it to the people of California and to the animal welfare advocates, who number in the millions around the world, who have been at the forefront in calling for this change, to give them the assurance they need and deserve," Bloom said.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein commended SeaWorld for its decision to end its captive orca breeding program and stop using animals in its live shows, and for the partnership with the Humane Society, which she said would "focus on combating illegal fishing and improving the health of our oceans."

"Today's announcement means the generation of orcas currently in captivity in the United States will be the last. Orcas are highly intelligent and social animals and I strongly believe this is the right thing to do," she said.

Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Burbank, who authored legislation aimed at phasing out the captivity of orcas, said SeaWorld's decision to stop breeding means the current generation of captive orcas would be the parks' last. He also said a shift to focusing on rescues and advocacy "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," Schiff said.

Manby wrote in an Los Angeles Times op-ed published Thursday that the attitudes of Americans about orcas has changed dramatically since the first SeaWorld park opened in 1964, with orcas going from being feared and hunted to become "among the most popular marine mammals on the planet."

"We are proud of contributing to the evolving understanding of one of the world's largest marine mammals," he wrote. "Now we need to respond to the attitudinal change that we helped to create, which is why SeaWorld is announcing several historic changes. This year we will end all orca breeding programs and because SeaWorld hasn't collected an orca from the wild in almost four decades, this will be the last generation of orcas in SeaWorld's care."

SeaWorld also plans to replace its theatrical shows with "natural orca encounters," starting in San Diego next year, then in San Antonio and Orlando in 2019. The orcas will continue to receive the highest-quality care.

SeaWorld will also partner with the Humane Society of the United States to advocate against commercial whaling, seal hunts, shark finning and ocean pollution, and it says it will increase its focus on rescue operations.

"Today we turn a corner, working together to achieve solutions on a wide set of animal issues including sunsetting the use of orcas at existing facilities; maximizing SeaWorld's focus on rescue, rehabilitation and advocacy for marine mammals in the wild; and sourcing food for animals and customers from humane and sustainable sources, including cage-free eggs and crate-free pork," Humane Society President and CEO Wayne Pacelle said.