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Even though SeaWorld has stopped breeding orcas, it’s life (if you can call it that) as usual in the cramped tanks. At a PETA-led news conference held in San Diego, a panel of experts discussed how captivity in SeaWorld’s tanks physically and mentally harms orcas and other animals and announced that a formal seaside sanctuary project is officially underway.

PETA’s panel of experts included neuroscientist and leading researcher in whale and dolphin brain anatomy Dr. Lori Marino, who discussed the important components of a seaside sanctuary for orcas.

Jean-Michel Cousteau, president of the Ocean Futures Society, detailed the successful rehabilitation and release of the orca Keiko, featured on the film Free Willy, and the 5 years Keiko was able to live in the ocean, feel the currents, hear and interact with other orcas. Cousteau also addressed the need for carefully managed seaside sanctuaries.

A man standing at a podium in front of a poster.

Jean-Michel Cousteau

A black and white orca jumping out of the water.© Free Willy Keiko Foundation

Keiko in a sea sanctuary

An orca jumping out of the water with a rainbow in the background.© Mark Berman/Free Willy Keiko Foundation

Keiko swimming free

Dr. Hope Ferdowsian, a double board-certified physician in general internal medicine and general preventive medicine and public health, noted how orcas at SeaWorld are suffering from symptoms of psychological distress similar to Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and spoke about the consequences of chronic stress, trauma, and deprivation on the health and well-being of humans and animals.


PETA wildlife veterinarian Dr. Heather Rally discussed how orcas will continue to suffer as long as they are displayed at SeaWorld.

Drilled Orca Teeth at SeaWorld Orlando

Seaside sanctuaries will allow orcas greater freedom of movement; the ability to see, sense, and communicate with their wild cousins and other ocean animals; to feel the tides and waves; and opportunities to engage in the behaviors that they’ve long been denied.

That’s the only future for orcas confined to tiny tanks at SeaWorld.

What You Can Do

Urge SeaWorld to send orcas to seaside sanctuaries and to eliminate all its animal displays.

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