Things might be finally changing at Seaworld. Here’s how.

Seaworld has been facing a wave of backlash ever since the documentary Blackfish — which shows the consequences of keeping orcas in captivity — was released. Stars such as One Direction’s Harry Styles, Jackass‘s Steve-O, and Olivia Wilde have taken a stand against the company, urging their followers and fans to do the same. Even Barbie quit her job as SeaWorld trainer!

Although SeaWorld probably won’t be stopping their operation anytime soon, the park is making some big changes —for the better. Here’s the sitch. When the San Diego aquarium applied for permission to build new tanks for its orcas (for its Blue World Project), it got a response from the California Coastal Commission that Seaworld probably didn’t expect. The commission gave them permission. . . but only “under a condition that would prohibit captive breeding, artificial insemination, and the sale, trade or transfer of any animal in captivity.” That’s right: SeaWorld can no longer breed animals in captivity, nor can they trade, sell, or transfer their current orcas (11 in total).

According to Metro, commission spokeswoman Noaki Schwartz said that they had been sent more than 120,000 e-mails about the expansion. Unsurprisingly, most of those e-mails were from people who don’t support it.

SeaWorld, as one would expect, isn’t thrilled about the ruling. In a statement released on Friday, president and chief executive officer of SeaWorld said:

However, those who have been fighting against the park’s allegedly inhumane practices are celebrating the news. Though the ruling only applies to the San Diego park, it’s certainly a sign that changes are coming in regards to how Seaworld runs things.

“It’s clear where public opinion is and the unanimous vote from the California Coastal Commission only added to the barrage over the last couple years,” said Jennifer Fearing, a lobbyist for The Humane Society of the United States. “The writing is on the wall and it’s time for them to stop fighting and evolve.”

As Fearing notes, SeaWorld can’t back out of building the tanks now — it may give the impression that it didn’t want bigger tanks to help its current whales, but intended to use them to breed more whales for their own benefit. This puts the company in even more dire straits after seeing a massive drop in sales — in particular after Blackfish’s release in 2013. In August of this year, SeaWorld reported an 84 percent drop in earnings in the second quarter of 2015 compared to last year’s second quarter. Yikes.

Though it’s unknown if SeaWorld will attempt to overturn this legislation in court, we are into the fact that the alleged misconduct at the park is being taken seriously in the eyes of the law. “[The ruling] ensures no more orcas will be condemned to a non-life of loneliness, deprivation and misery,” said PETA official Jared Goodman after the ruling. “. . .These 11 orcas would be the last 11 orcas there.”

(Image via iStock, Twitter)