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California Tells SeaWorld to Stop Breeding Killer Whales

SeaWorld has won the battle but lost the war in its bid to enlarge its killer whale enclosure in San Diego.

On Thursday evening, the California Coastal Commission voted unanimously to approve the company’s $100 million “Blue World Project” but with devastating conditions for SeaWorld: It can proceed with the expansion but only if it stops breeding 11 killer whales in San Diego.

The company also would not be allowed to transfer captive whales into or out of San Diego, though it could add up to four orcas if the animals are stranded and rescued from the wild.

Orcas “don’t belong in captivity,” said Commissioner Dayna Bochco.

Anti-captivity activists, who crammed the commission meeting at the Long Beach Convention Center, hailed the decision as the beginning of the end of orca captivity in San Diego.

“I actually didn’t even think of this as a potential outcome, and I’m happier with it than if they had said no,” Kimberly Ventre, an activist and marketing consultant from San Francisco who testified against the expansion, said in an email.

About 650 people—including activists, company officials, actor Pamela Anderson, and concerned citizens on both sides of the controversial project—attended the hearing, with an overflow crowd waiting outside.being to reproduce. SeaWorld has been hit with declining revenues and attendance since the release of Blackfish, a 2013 documentary about mistreatment of marine mammals at its entertainment parks.

“They are thriving because they are reproducing,” testified Hendrik Nollens, senior staff veterinarian at SeaWorld San Diego. “It’s a sign that the animal is living in a socially compatible group and in good health.”

What happens next is not clear. SeaWorld could still build Blue World and abandon its San Diego breeding program, or it could continue breeding and abandon the facility.

“Depriving these social animals of the natural and fundamental right to reproduce is inhumane, and we do not support this condition,” SeaWorld chief executive Joel Manby said in a statement. The company added that “it will review its options.”

“This is a major victory,” said Naomi Rose, a marine mammal scientist at the Animal Welfare Institute. Rose was one of two orca scientists to testify against the project. The other was Ingrid Visser, founder of New Zealand’s Orca Research Trust.

“As a scientist, I believe it’s important that we separate the business rhetoric from the facts,” Visser told the commissioners. “This new tank does not meet even [the most] basic requirements,” she said. “No tank ever will.” SeaWorld now finds itself in a marine-mammal pickle. Company executives testified during the nearly nine-hour hearing that they would never abandon their captive breeding program because it is essenial for the whales’ well-being.

SeaWorld’s Expansion Gets Approved, but There’s an Epic Catch

 

by Alicia Graef

This week hundreds of orca advocates turned out for the meeting that would determine the fate of SeaWorld San Diego’s proposed expansion. The advocates voiced their objections and urged the California Coastal Commission to deny its permit application …and they were not disappointed.

SeaWorld’s controversial $100 million Blue World Project was touted as a “first-of-its-kind” environment for captive orcas, which would include nearly doubling the size of its existing facility, in addition to adding an advisory panel of experts and pledging $10 million for research.

While a bigger enclosure might slightly improve the welfare of the 11 orcas currently being held at the park, opponents argued that a tank is still a tank and raised serious concerns that more space would mean more breeding, with SeaWorld potentially increasing its population and negating any benefits more space would provide.

The California Coastal Commission, which has the authority to approve or deny the expansion, received an outpouring of public opposition before this week’s meeting with thousands upon thousands of people coming forward to speak up on behalf of captive orcas – more than 102,000 people signed the Care2 petition  opposing the project.

Despite the massive opposition, last month SeaWorld got some worrying support in the form of a staff report from the commission recommending the expansion project be approved.

Yesterday the commission met in front of a huge crowd to decide the final outcome. Orca experts including Dr. Ingrid Visser and Dr. Naomi Rose, along former SeaWorld trainer John Hargrove and representatives from several animal advocacy organizations including Peta, the Earth Island Institute, Sea Shepherd and the Animal Legal Defense Fund, among many others and members of the public, were present to ask the commission not to allow SeaWorld to expand.

After hearing hours of testimony, the commission ultimately voted unanimously to approve the expansion, but with a huge catch.

At the end Commissioner Dayna Bochco introduced an amendment that added the condition that SeaWorld would end all captive breeding, sale, trade and transfer of the orcas in its care.

Now SeaWorld can go ahead with the project, but if it does, it will mean the 11 orcas currently at its park will be the last it ever has.

While SeaWorld said in a statement it’s disappointed by the vote and is considering its options, along with ironically saying denying them the “right” to breed is “inhumane,” animal advocates are celebrating this outcome as a huge victory in the fight to end orca captivity.

ALDF Executive Director Stephen Wells, said in a statement:

SeaWorld’s business is circling the drain as an enlightened

Read more: http://www.care2.com/causes/seaworlds-expansion-gets-approved-but-theres-an-epic-catch.html#ixzz3oO7dTTVU

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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