SeaWorld: orcas will no longer be part of the show | Photo: z2amiller/Creative Commons

SeaWorld announced that it will stop breeding killer whales. Is this the end of an era?

The theme park company says that the orcas currently in the company's care will be the last generation of captive killer whales at SeaWorld. Educational programs will replace theatrical orca shows.

"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," says Joel Manby, CEO at SeaWorld Entertainment.

The company revealed that the current population of orcas at SeaWorld – including one orca, Takara, that became pregnant last year – will live out their lives at SeaWorld's park habitats.

"The decision to end its orca breeding program globally and to commit to ending the collection of exhibit animals from the wild, as well as to a 'no orca' policy, is a monumental and important first step forward in achieving a more humane business model for the company," added the Animal Welfare Institute.

Gabriela Cowperthwaite, director of "Blackfish," says this is "a defining moment. The fact that SeaWorld is doing away with orca breeding marks truly meaningful change."