Success: San Diego SeaWorld Banned from Breeding Orcas!
San Diego SeaWorld will no longer be allowed to breed any of the 11 orcas currently in their park, after the California Coastal Commission passed a vote on Thursday. The all-day meeting brought in activists from both sides rallying outside–about 650 people who included SeaWorld employees and supporters, and animal rights activists. The over eight-hour long meeting included testimony from marine biologists, activists, as well as local business owners. While the vote allowed the San Diego chapter to build an expanding holding facility for the orcas currently being kept there, this “win” came with many limitations and conditions.
The California Coastal Commission banned the breeding of captive whales–and also passed measures that would see the movement of these whales in and out of the park restricted. SeaWorld will also be banned from selling, trading, or transferring the whales.
While SeaWorld was able to achieve some of what they wanted in their plan called Project Blue World, these limitations and restrictions could actually mean that the remaining 11 orcas in their facility could be the last this park will ever have. SeaWorld officials were quick to criticize the decision, and used the word ‘extinction’ to describe what this passing would mean to the park. John Reilly, president of SeaWorld San Diego, stated:
“A ban on breeding would sentence these animals to a slow extinction in our care.”
He then rushed out of the building where the decision was passed with other SeaWorld officials and refused to make any additional comments. Afterwards, the park released a statement:
“We are disappointed with the conditions that the California Coastal Commission placed on their approval of the Blue World Project and will carefully review and consider our options. 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.”
While the SeaWorld officials are feigning interest in the treatment of their orcas and the “inhumane” practices this vote would allow, animal rights activists saw the decision as a major victory as part of a string of former victories: As a result of Blackfish, SeaWorld attendance has dropped 12% last year and according to reports, shares of SeaWorld Entertainment, the parent company, have also plunged.
SeaWorld had used their Blue World Project as an attempt to take into consideration the welfare of the orcas by proposing to expand their tanks to become 1.5 acres and 50 feet deep. However, head of the Orca Research Trust in New Zealand, Ingrid Visser, stated that in the wild orcas swim an average of 138 miles/day, and can go as deep as 600 feet. She stated:
“These new tanks do not meet these basic requirements. No facility ever will.”
So while SeaWorld may have gotten the approval to expand, the restriction could mean the current 11 orcas held in captivity could be the last. Lawyers for SeaWorld have stated that they do not believe the panel has the right to pass this decision, and that it must come from the federal government, but it is not clear if they will pursue legal action yet.
If they do, at least it is clear they will be met with mounting opposition.
Photo Credit: http://www.forbes.com/