The End of Captive Orca Breeding at Sea World San Diego

Brittany Helmer-Peschier writes about a recent law passed in the US preventing Sea World from breeding, trading, buying or selling live orcas.

Sea World San Diego can no longer breed, trade, buy, or sell captive orcas due to conditions placed on Sea World after the California Coastal Commission approved a $100 million expansion that would double the size of the tanks used to hold captive orcas.

On October 8th the California Coastal Commission held a meeting where Sea World and opponents to Sea World voiced their arguments on the treatment of the captive orcas at the amusement park. After hours of listening to speeches, the California Coastal Commission banned Sea World from breeding captive orcas. In addition, Sea World also cannot capture wild orcas or breed through artificial insemination.

PETA lawyer Jared Goodman said “These 11 orcas will be last ones there”.

Orcas, by nature, are social animals who live in large families with dozens of members. They cover hundreds of kilometers a day through the ocean, and can live for decades. When orcas are captured, they are taken from their families, who they mourn, put into tanks far too small for any orca to live comfortably, and are starved until they do what they are ordered to do – perform tricks for our entertainment.

According to PETA, who was one of the main voices at the meeting, the vote “ensures that no more orcas will be condemned to a non-life of loneliness, deprivation and misery.”

Though there is a potential for special exemptions for captured wild orcas, this ban could mean big trouble for Sea World – what will they do when all of their orcas die? Sea World has expressed their disappointment in the ban placed on them and has said “we will carefully review and consider our options.”

The commission has not given details about the exceptions for captured wild orcas.

Though wild orcas can live for decades, captive orcas live an average of 12 years, according to a study done by Marine Mammal Science. An article published by said wild male orcas live for a maximum of 50 to 60 years and females live for a maximum of 80 to 90 years. Sea World has said their orcas live just as long as their wild counterparts.

When Sea World San Diego was asked about their thoughts on this new ban they said, “Breeding is a natural, fundamental and important part of an animal’s life and depriving a social animal of the right to reproduce is inhumane.” Sea World has also said that their animals are not stressed or depressed.

Sea World veterinarian Hendrik Nollens told the panel at the meeting “We care for these animals as if they were family. We have nothing but the whales’ best interest at heart.”

Commissioner Bochco disagreed and said, “Orcas do not belong in captivity.”

According to CNN, there are 56 Orcas in captivity worldwide, 24 of which live at Sea World parks in San Diego, Orlando, and San Antonio.

Though this ban will not apply to other Sea World locations in the United States, it is still a step in the right direction. There is still a lot of work that needs to be done, but at least it has begun.


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