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Sea Cages - A High-Risk Proposition

March 24, 2016
Never in the history of mankind has an orca born under human care survived a release to the wild.

As you have heard, SeaWorld recently made a major announcement that we are ending all orca breeding, making this the last generation of orcas at our parks. We are also excited to introduce new, inspiring, natural orca encounters, phasing out our current theatrical shows.

This signals a new direction for our company and we are excited about the future.

While most are celebrating these announcements, some critics want us to go further; they believe we should simply “set free” the whales and release them into the ocean. We believe that would likely be a death sentence for our whales.

Never in the history of mankind has an orca born under human care survived a release to the wild. The most famous case is Keiko, the whale from “Free Willy.” Even though Keiko was born in the wild and millions of dollars were spent preparing him for release, after being released he died from pneumonia. We’re not going to take this risk with SeaWorld’s whales.

That’s in line with the view from the Los Angeles Times.  They editorialized on the issue saying, “They will all live out their days at SeaWorld parks. That's for the best: It's not prudent to release them into a wild ocean that they didn't grow up in and are, most likely, unequipped to handle.

But still, there are those who claim that simply establishing areas that are fenced in, or essentially sea cages, is the answer for the orcas at SeaWorld. This would be as dangerous for the whales as simply releasing them into the ocean, and could in fact be worse.

Almost all of our whales were born at SeaWorld and have never lived in the wild. They would not be able to handle the ocean’s man-made pollution or naturally occurring diseases. Stuck in these cages, they would be helpless to avoid contagious diseases, parasites and pollutants. They would be sitting ducks, stuck in one place no matter what the tide brings in, whether it’s an oil spill or a hurricane. That a risk we simply won’t take.

The very idea of releasing these orcas to sea cages ignores the fact that sea cages for orcas do not currently exist anywhere in the world. 

The best, and safest, future for our whales is to let them live out their lives at SeaWorld, receiving the highest quality care, based on the latest advances in marine veterinary medicine, science and zoological best practices.