The recent announcement that SeaWorld is ending their orca program and forging an alliance with HSUS sparked widely diverse emotional responses, from joy to despair, but most serious animal people were deeply hurt and furious.
I am not going to address the specific orca question: despite my tens of thousands of hours working with hundreds of species, I do not possess sufficient knowledge or experience with marine mammals to know whether or not orcas can thrive in captivity. This determination belongs in the hands of dedicated, knowledgeable, caring experts, and not abandoned to weekend activists, anti-animal fanatics, pre-occupied politicians, or casual animal lovers. And I am not privy to what happens at SeaWorld, so I cannot speak to the details of their care.
Nor am I going to attack those at SeaWorld for this decision. We are all struggling to find best and most effective paths in the current world, and I do not have access to all the information they had. I suspect it was a serious mistake for SeaWorld to become a publicly traded company, but even if they had not, no institution can long survive what SeaWorld has been facing, so they did what they believed was necessary to survive in the short term, even though doing so may well have sacrificed the future.