SeaWorld is now facing difficulties after being banned from breeding orcas by the California Coastal Commission.
The once-popular chain of oceanariums, animal theme parks and marine mammal parks had hatched a $100 million plan for expanding its operations.
The “Blue World” project, scheduled for 2018, included building a series of giant tanks that would keep orcas (killer whales) in captivity. This would’ve tripled the scope of SeaWorld’s current enclosures.
However, while the state coastal commission approved this initiative, this permit was given under one specific condition. The San Diego-based theme park, owned by SeaWorld Entertainment, was forbidden from breeding the aquatic mammals that would live there.
The ban includes calves that would’ve been born as a result of artificial insemination. The sale, trade and transfer of the current 11 killer whales is also disallowed.
The only saving grace is that the limitation is only effective in SeaWorld’s California locations, and doesn’t extend to aquariums, oceanariums and theme parks from Texas or Florida.
Currently, officials from the entertainment facility are now trying to determine what course of action they should follow, and they might even appeal the state authorities’ decision in court.
It is unclear if the family entertainment company will continue its expansion as planned, or if it will first try to challenge this prohibition. Up until now, representatives haven’t issued any comment regarding their upcoming actions, but they insisted the ban would cause the “slow extinction” of the mammals in their care.
Earlier this week, SeaWorld Attorney David Watson also expressed his disappointment with the interdiction imposed by the panel. According to him, the California Coastal Commission has gone beyond its authority, since state legislators aren’t allowed to regulate the management of captive animals like killer whales.
“We believe that federal law expressly pre-empts all state regulation of the orcas. All marine mammal exhibits are regulated exclusively by the federal government”, declared Watson.
Attendance has been dwindling lately in SeaWorld’s theme parks, and stock prices have also been facing a downturn. One possible explanation is the positive critical reception of the documentary “Blackfish”, released in 2013.
The film highlighted the problems that plight the sea-park industry, by presenting the story of Tilikum, an orca held at SeaWorld. The documentary-makers showed the falsehood in claiming that captive whales have similar lifespans with their wild counterparts.
They also emphasized the stress and violent behavior induced in these marine mammals when they are separated from their offspring and kept captive. In reaction to these accusations, SeaWorld representatives claimed that Blackfish “is inaccurate and misleading and, regrettably, exploits a tragedy”.
According to them, the company actually plays an active role in rescuing, rehabilitating and returning back into the wild hundreds of sea creatures.
While an online poll conducted by the Orlando Business Journal concluded that the majority of readers hadn’t changed their mind about the entertainment chain following the documentary, it was later revealed that more than half of the votes had come from a single SeaWorld-hosted IP address.
In fact, the company did experience a surge of negative sentiment from the general public in recent years. This current measure enacted by coastal authorities is bound to diminish the number of SeaWorld visitors even further.
Image Source: Pixabay