California agency bans orca breeding at SeaWorld San Diego, but approves a $100 million expansion of tanks SeaWorld uses to hold killer whales.
SeaWorld is chain of marine mammal parks, oceanariums, and animal theme parks in America, owned by SeaWorld Entertainment.The parks feature killer whales, sea lions, and dolphins shows featuring various other marine animals. (There are operations in Orange County, Florida; San Diego, California; San Antonio, Texas; and previously Aurora, Ohio).
The parks’ marine mammal collections have been the subject of public debate over the years. Especially after the 2013 film Blackfish, produced after a SeaWorld Orlando trainer was killed by one of the park’s killer whales, which suggests SeaWorld’s treatment of captive orcas provokes violent behavior.
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From last Thursday 08.10.2015 a California agency has banned the park from breeding captive orcas, including through artificial insemination, at the California park (but not at SeaWorld facilities in other states). The commission’s approval comes with the provision that no new whales from the wild will be kept there. Even though SeaWorld says it hasn’t captured wild orcas in more than 30 years.
It also prohibits the sale, trade or transfer of captive orcas. The amendment does provide a potential exemption for certain whales caught in the wild but it wasn’t immediately clear whether that applied to any of the orcas at the San Diego park.
But approves a $100 million expansion of tanks in the park.
In a statement, SeaWorld said it was disappointed by the conditions attached to the approval of its “Blue World” expansion, set to open in 2018, which would triple the size of existing killer whale enclosures.
“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 park said.
Animal rights activists are opposed, saying breeding the animals in captivity is cruel no matter the size of the tanks. (Chris Park, AP)
The panel’s decision raised an array of questions, including whether the company would proceed with the project or raise a legal challenge, possibly on whether the commission overstepped its authority. SeaWorld said it was considering its options.
The vote followed a daylong hearing during which dozens of speakers argued for and against expansion. Although the permit involved a request to expand tank space, the discussion evolved into a wide-ranging debate over the conditions in captivity for the huge marine mammals, including breeding and the use of pharmaceuticals.
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