Worldwide icon-chevron-right North America icon-chevron-right United States icon-chevron-right SeaWorld to end orca breeding programs and shows after 'Blackfish effect'
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SeaWorld to end orca breeding programs and shows after 'Blackfish effect'

Orca whale at San Diego SeaWorld
Photograph: Shutterstock

Just how much of an impact can a documentary have?

That question was answered today when SeaWorld Entertainment announced it would be ending its orca breeding programs at its parks across America. 

The announcement comes three years after the release of documentary Blackfish, which drew the world's eyes to the shocking ways in which the whales were captured and the conditions in which they were kept at SeaWorld parks.

Tilikum, the killer whale at the center of the documentary, was involved in the deaths of three people—including trainer Dan Brancheau in 2010. The documentary argued that conditions had made the whale aggressive; stunned viewers were convinced.

People are saying the "Blackfish effect" is behind the organization's latest move.

SeaWorld CEO Joel Manby said Thursday the killer whales that reside at SeaWorld's Parks will be the last to call those facilities home. Orca shows are due to end in San Diego in 2017 and in San Antonio and Orlando by 2019.

In an L.A. Times column, Manby said that SeaWorld's orca program had actually been instrumental in educating people about "killer whales"—helping people understand that they were more than beasts to be "feared, hated and even hunted."

"We are proud of contributing to the evolving understanding of one of the world's largest marine mammals. Now we need to respond to the attitudinal change that we helped to create—which is why SeaWorld is announcing several historic changes."

Noble guy, right?

Of course, the "historic changes" could also be a result of the fact that SeaWorld's stock price has fallen by about 60 percent since the release of Blackfish.

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