For one, far from calling for the orcas' release into the wild, most legitimate biologists and animal welfare advocates would agree with SeaWorld. The park's whales are far too "messed up" to be fully released, said Dr. Naomi Rose, Ph.D, a marine biologist and orca expert with the Animal Welfare Institute.
Rose told The Dodo that, after being raised in SeaWorld's unnatural environment, many of its orcas are too damaged to ever live on their own in the wild - and it's unlikely that they could be trained to survive on their own. "We're pretty crappy orcas," she said of humans. "And the idea that we could train an [captive-bred] orca to be an orca is pretty arrogant of us."
Rose, like others in the orca welfare community, believes that sea sanctuaries, or fenced-off pens in the ocean, would be the next best thing. They would allow the orcas to have access to things they've grown dependent on in captivity - medical care, prepared food - while having more room to swim and regaining part of the lives that nature intended.
But SeaWorld said that the sanctuaries - which its PR team rechristened "sea cages" - "would be as dangerous for the whales as simply releasing them into the ocean, and could in fact be worse.
"Stuck in these cages, they would be helpless to avoid contagious diseases, parasites and pollutants," SeaWorld said. "They would be sitting ducks, stuck in one place no matter what the tide brings in, whether it's an oil spill or a hurricane."