Sea pen sanctuaries are a concept similar to land sanctuaries for elephants and chimps

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Following SeaWorld’s announcement on Thursday that it’s ending its orca breeding program, the animal rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), wants the company to place its existing orcas in sea sanctuaries.

“Following years of pressure from PETA, SeaWorld finally took a step forward by agreeing to stop breeding orcas for a lifetime of misery in captivity,” PETA Executive Vice President Tracy Reiman said in a statement on Monday.

“We are withdrawing our now-moot 2016 resolution,” the statement continued. “And will submit a new resolution in 2017 calling for SeaWorld to move the orcas to sea sanctuaries, where they can finally have some semblance of a natural life — instead of being confined to prison tanks.”

Sea pen sanctuaries are a concept similar to land sanctuaries for elephants and chimps, marine mammal scientist for the Animal Welfare Institute, Naomi Rose explained to Newsweek last November. It would be a large space in the ocean enclosed by nets.

The orcas would be able to “experience the currents and swim and dive and interact with other ocean animals,” Jared Goodman, director of animal law for PETA, told the magazine at the time.

In an op-ed for the Los Angeles Times on Thursday, Joel Manby, President and CEO of SeaWorld, stated: “For as long as they live, the orcas at SeaWorld will stay in our parks.”

“They’ll continue to receive the highest-quality care, based on the latest advances in marine veterinary medicine, science and zoological best practices,” he wrote.