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Third orca death in 18 months at theme park

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Image from one of the WDC Risso's dolphin research catalogues

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Breeding banned as SeaWorld gets expansion go-ahead

The California Coastal Commission agreed on Thursday to allow SeaWorld to expand its San Diego marine park but at the same time imposed major restrictions on the plan. The decision was reached after an all-day meeting attended by representatives and supporters of both SeaWorld and those opposed to captivity.

The most signficant of these is a complete ban on the breeding of orcas at the park, which currently holds 11 whales. SeaWorld had accepted a cap of 15 whales being held in the new tanks, but without the ability to breed from them it raises big doubts over the long-term viability of the project. In effect, it could mean that these orcas are the last ones that would ever be held at the park. The amendment also prohibits the sale, trade or transfer of captive orcas. The only additional whales that the park could house would be those rescued and authorized by government agencies. 

Courtney Vail, Campaigns and Programs Manager for WDC, said  “Although WDC opposed SeaWorld’s Blue World expansion project, we welcome the conditions attached to the Commission’s recent decision to grant the permit which will prohibit any further breeding at the park, limit the total number of orcas that can be housed there to 15 individuals, and prevent the transfer of other orcas into the facility. 

The Commission’s decision means that if SeaWorld decides to move forward with the Blue World expansion project, it will essentially be required to phase out the use of orcas for entertainment at its San Diego park. We are heartened by the overwhelming opposition to the project that was evidenced at the Commission’s public hearing yesterday, revealing that the majority of the public is indeed opposed to the perpetuation of this outdated practice.”

SeaWorld has said it will review its options in light of the conditions imposed by the Commission on the US$100 million project which is due to open in 2018. 

More on the fate of captive orcas

About George Berry

George is a member of WDC's Communications team and website coordinator.