SeaWorld’s proposed expansion plans have been in the works for quite a while now and have finally received approval. Along with the approval for the $100 million expansion of SeaWorld’s San Diego facility killer whale habitat, the California Coastal Commission has introduced a serious stipulation, they are banned from breeding the orcas that would inhabit them.
Thursday saw a day-long hearing in relation to SeaWorld’s plans and the ban came as a last-minute amendment to the approval. Dozens of speakers were heard in the argument for and against the expansion plans before approval was granted. The ban would officially only affect the orcas that are already captives, even if by artificial insemination, at the California park, and it does not apply to the SeaWorld facilities in other states. The trade, sale, or transfer of captive killer whales has also been prohibited by the last-minute amendment, and animal rights activists are applauding all the changes. The activists believe that the decision is a death blow to the California ocean park use of killer whales. The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) released a statement about the vote.
“The commission’s action today ensures that no more orcas will be condemned to a nonlife of loneliness, deprivation and misery.”
There is a provision present in the amendment that could possibly exempt certain killer whales caught in the wild, but whether or not this applies to any orcas at the San Diego park is still not clear. The Blue World expansion by SeaWorld is officially scheduled to be open in 2018 and would be triple the size of any of the existing whale enclosures. In contrast to PETA’s excitement SeaWorld has expressed disappointment in the ban placed on breeding.
“Breeding is a natural, fundamental and important part of an animal’s life and depriving a social animal of the right to reproduce is inhumane.”
The Coastal Commission, responsible for regulating land and water use along the coast of California, also attached amendments to the Blue World approval, according to the Los Angeles Times. One of those stipulations was a ban on the addition of new whales from the wild being introduced to Blue World. In response, SeaWorld argued that it has been over 30 years since they captured any wild orcas. The current 11 whales are all that will be allowed to reside in the new habitat.
The Guardian wrote of how stock prices and attendance at the California park has steadily declined since 2013, when the documentary Blackfish was released. The documentary strongly suggested that the treatment of captive orcas by SeaWorld provokes them to violent behavior, which suggests SeaWorld’s treatment of captive orcas provokes violent behavior. In it, a whale known as Tilikum was responsible for the death of several persons during a live performance he was a part of. A former SeaWorld trainer, John Hargrove, worked in California and Texas and who wrote a book about his experiences as well as appeared in the film Blackfish spoke at the meeting. According to him, the whales are heavily medicated, and the family structures that define the creatures are broken in captivity. This was something that SeaWorld refuted with veterinarian Hendrik Nollens, calling the accusations outlandish.
“The whales are enriched and stimulated, he said, not stressed or depressed.We care for these animals as if they were family. We have nothing but the whales’ best interest at heart.”
Those in favor of the expansion believed that increasing the whales’ habitat is a good thing, but many who are against it are influenced by the scientific findings that the whales are suffering in captivity. PETA has pointed out on their site that SeaWorld has previously been cited for violating the Animal Welfare Act and fined for inadequately protecting its employees, and the declining amount of visitors to the park are a reflection of people’s knowledge of the facts. One Direction’s Harry Styles recently caused a decline of his own when he spoke out against SeaWorld.
Dayna Bronco is the one who initiated the amendment with the ban and fervently believes that the orcas do not belong in captivity at all.
[Photo Courtesy Of Orlando Sentinel/Getty Images]