'Blackfish' Director Calls SeaWorld Ending Killer Whale Breeding "Paradigm Shifting"

Courtesy of Magnolia Pictures

Gabriela Cowperthwaite reacts to Thursday's big news.

Blackfish director Gabriela Cowperthwaite is responding positively to SeaWorld's recent announcement that it's ending its practice of killer whale breeding on Thursday.

The Blackfish documentary showcased the story behind orca trainer Dawn Brancheau's death, after she was killed by an orca named Tilikum in 2010. Brancheau's death and the ensuing 2013 documentary increased controversy over keeping orcas in captivity.

"Of course we want more because change should always be dynamic," Cowperthwaite tells The Hollywood Reporter. "But breeding, expanding killer whales into international markets, all these missives once sat at the center of their business model. And they're willing to stop these practices immediately."

She added, "This is paradigm shifting."

Cowperthwaite has been vocal in her criticism against the amusement park's treatment of orcas in the past. In November when SeaWorld announced it would be ending its orca shows in San Diego, Cowperthwaite reiterated the importance of stopping the breeding program.

"Until they stop the breeding and retire their whales into sea sanctuaries we just can't let up," she said in a statement to THR. "Nothing else they're doing truly changes anything for the animals."

On Thursday, the president and CEO of SeaWorld Entertainment, Inc. spoke out about the company's decision to stop the breeding program.

"SeaWorld has introduced more than 400 million guests to orcas, and we are proud of our part in contributing to the human understanding of these animals," said Joel Manby. "As society's understanding of orcas continues to change, SeaWorld is changing with it. By making this the last generation of orcas in our care and reimagining how guests will encounter these beautiful animals, we are fulfilling our mission of providing visitors to our parks with experiences that matter."

A CNN spokesperson sent a statement to THR following SeaWorld's recent announcement. "CNN covered the story that eventually inspired Gabriela Cowerperthwaite’s powerful film, Blackfish. It has always been our intention to bring depth, context, and critical reporting to the powerful stories of our times for CNN Films. We feel that Blackfish was one of those projects and CNN Films was proud to present this stirring, extraordinary film for our audience.”

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