SeaWorld to end orca breeding program, CEO says

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ABC's Brandi Hitt has more from Los Angeles. (Chris Park)

SeaWorld CEO Joel Manby announced today in an op-ed piece published in the Los Angeles Times that the SeaWorld Parks will end their orca breeding program and also phase out its orca whale shows.

Manby said in part, "Americans' attitudes about orcas have changed dramatically. When the first SeaWorld Park opened in 1964, orcas, or killer whales, were not universally loved, to put it mildly. Instead, they were feared, hated and even hunted. Half a century later, orcas are among the most popular marine mammals on the planet. One reason: People came to SeaWorld and learned about orcas up close.For some time, SeaWorld has faced a paradox. Customers visit our marine parks, in part, to watch orcas. But a growing number of people don't think orcas belong in human care."

Manby called for increased awareness of the human impact on the environment and said SeaWorld is shifting its focus.

Manby wrote, "SeaWorld will increase its focus on rescue operations - so that the thousands of stranded marine mammals like dolphins and sea lions that cannot be released back to the wild will have a place to go. SeaWorld will also join in the Humane Society's efforts to raise awareness of animal welfare, offering humane food options and serving only sustainable seafood. Without a critical mass of informed and energized people, humanity will never make the difficult decisions that are necessary to halt and reverse the exploitation of wild places and the extinction of wild species. By offering our guests enjoyable, memorable and educational experiences, SeaWorld will continue to create the constituency for conservation, just as we helped to inspire the changing attitudes that, in turn, inspired our company's changing policies."

In recent years, SeaWorld has faced criticism from animal activists and has been the subject of a high-profile CNN Films documentary called "Blackfish," which targeted the practices of the park, as well as claims made by the company.

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