You might remember we recently asked you to write to the California Coastal Commission about SeaWorld’s planned orca exhibit “Blue World”. Well, today the commission announced their much-awaited decision.
Let’s be upfront. The commission did give the green light to SeaWorld to build its proposed $100 million enclosure expansion. And yes, a bigger prison is still a prison. However, the great and unexpected news is that if they decide to go ahead, SeaWorld will be banned from breeding orcas.
This means the eleven orcas currently held at SeaWorld SanDiego could be the last.
This surprising twist came from Commissioner Dayna Bochco of San Francisco. Bochco put forward a prohibition on any breeding of orcas, any artificial insemination, and all transfers between other parks. She also proposed the new project not house any whales captured from the wild.
And the Commission agreed.
The decision is possibly the biggest and most controversial the commission has had to make in the past forty years. It received more than 200,000 emails and 50,000 letters in relation to the proposed expansion – many of them from Australia for Dolphins’ supporters, no doubt!
The convention centre where the meeting took place was packed with over 650 animal advocates and pro-SeaWorld representatives, many of whom weighed in on the issue.
One teen dolphin advocate spoke against Sea World, despite having some difficulty: “Excuse me for my poor speech. I just got my braces.” A pro-SeaWorld spokeswoman said unconvincingly: “The lie about us being paid to be here is a lie.”
Perhaps the best indication of what this ban actually means came from the president of SeaWorld San Diego himself. President John Reilly was clearly rattled by the result. He tried to buy the organisation some time, stating:
“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.
“A ban on breeding would sentence these animals to a slow extinction in our care,” he added.
But SeaWorld’s spin didn’t dupe the commission and it doesn’t fool us either. There is nothing natural about trainers milking orcas for their sperm and artificially inseminating females against their will.
The only reason SeaWorld is keen to add to their orca population is to ensure there will be future generations of orca to profit from.
And inhumane? Good choice of words, Reilly. We can’t think of a better one for forcibly separating orca families and keeping these wild, intelligent, migratory mammals in tiny tanks.
Essentially, the commission’s decision means if SeaWorld does decide to go ahead with the expansion, it will have to phase out the use of orcas for entertainment. If it doesn’t go ahead with the expansion, it will prove what many have said all along – SeaWorld doesn’t actually care about its orcas, it cares about the money orcas make for SeaWorld.
It will be interesting to see whether SeaWorld does go ahead with the expansion – or if it finally sees the writing on the wall and takes steps toward releasing its orcas to a sea sanctuary.
Let’s hope it’s the latter.