At the risk of this being a controversial statement, I must say that SeaWorld CEO Joel Manby is the first SeaWorld CEO ever to reach out to us. In fact, I testified to this before the California State Assembly, as this very dialogue produced the meaningful change we were eager to win, and Mr. Manby deserves credit for that.
Do I trust SeaWorld? Absolutely not. What I hope we're seeing is Joel Manby ushering in a new era of SeaWorld, and perhaps we'll even be able to trust them one day. He's already making big changes: Staffers are getting let go or reassigned and he ultimately agreed that captive orca breeding ends now.
The SeaWorld I don't trust, and for good reason, is the old guard. Joel Manby is the new guard and I choose to applaud and support him at this moment in time.
When it comes to all the other changes that it is necessary for SeaWorld to make, we'll just need to give Mr. Manby more time. Encouragingly, what has happened was not just a step in the right direction, but a major historic leap that will cause a positive domino effect for all captive animals, not just orcas.
We have a long way to go; next up is testifying before Congress for federal legislation. But first, let's all take the time to celebrate this historic victory for the orcas and to look back at how far we've come, so we can continue to move forward.
John Hargrove is a former SeaWorld trainer, "Blackfish" star and author of the bestselling memoir "Beneath the Surface: Killer Whales, SeaWorld, and the Truth Beyond Blackfish."