ORLANDO, Fla., March 17 (UPI) -- SeaWorld on Thursday announced it has stopped breeding orcas, or killer whales, and those animals under the company's care will be the last generation kept in its water parks.
The company made the announcement as part of a "new direction for the company." Current SeaWorld orcas will "continue to live at SeaWorld for many years to come."
"Why the big news? SeaWorld has been listening and we're changing. Society is changing and we're changing with it," the company said in a statement. "SeaWorld is finding new ways to continue to deliver on our purpose to inspire all our guest to take action to protect wild animals and wild places."
Joel Manby, SeaWorld's president and CEO, told the Los Angeles Times that the situation was a paradox, because people visit its water parks to watch orcas "but a growing number of people don't think orcas belong in human care."
SeaWorld has been criticized by animal rights activists and organizations for decades, but the public at-large began condemning the company's actions after CNN's controversial Blackfish documentary was released in 2013.
"These majestic orcas will not be released into the ocean, nor confined to sea cages," SeaWorld added. "They could not survive in oceans to compete for food, be exposed to unfamiliar diseases or to have to deal with environmental concerns -- including pollution and other man-made threats."