You are here

The Fate of Captive Orcas

Killer whales, more properly known as orcas, have been kept in captivity since 1961, helpless victims of a blatantly commercial experiment which has seen dozens of wild orcas plucked from their families and forced to live in artificial social groupings which bear scant resemblance to their natural order.
Morgan, held in captivity at Loro Parque in Tenerife, Spain.

There are currently (August 2015) a total of 59 orcas held in captivity (24 wild-captured plus 35 captive-born) in at least 14 marine parks in 8 different countries.

At least 151 orcas have been taken into captivity from the wild since 1961 (including Pascuala and Morgan). 

  • 127 of these orcas are now dead.  
  • In the wild, male orcas live to an average of 30 years (maximum 50-60 years) and 46 years for females (maximum 80-90 years).
  • At least 161 orcas have died in captivity, not including 30 miscarried or still-born calves.
  • SeaWorld holds 24 orcas in its three parks in the United States and owns (at least) a further four at Loro Parque in Spain (ownership of Adan and Morgan not verified). At least forty-four orcas have died at SeaWorld.
  • One of the most infamous capture incidents saw over 80 whales from the Southern Resident population of orcas in Washington State rounded-up at Penn Cove in 1970. Seven were taken into captivity while as many as five whales died. Today this population is recognised as endangered. Only one captured whale, Lolita, is still alive, held at Miami Seaquarium.
  • The longest surviving orca in captivity is Corky, captured in 1969 from the Northern Resident population that inhabits the waters around Vancouver Island, Canada. She is held at SeaWorld in San Diego. None of her seven offspring in captivity have survived. Her family (known as the A5 pod) continue to thrive in the wild, including Corky's brother, Fife, who you can adopt to help support our work.
  • At least 15 orcas have been taken from the wild into captivity since 2002, most recently in Russia.

Orcas in captivity infographic


The growing uneasiness with the concept of keeping orcas in captivity has only been increased by the renowned documentary Blackfish, documenting the reality of the captives' existence. Despite the best attempts of the display industry to blow a smokescreen over such negative publicity, the wider world is now increasingly aware that all is not well in fantasy-land. In recent years, first a trickle, then a steady torrent, of incidents have been reported. A growing catalogue of 'accidents', illnesses, failed pregnancies and premature deaths that have helped to show up this industry for the cruel circus that it really is.

Read about the orcas held in captivity

orcas-in-captivity.pdf (or see table below)

Support our work to end captivity. Adopt an orca today.