Photos: SeaWorld Unveils New Larger Orca Habitat In Wake Of 'Blackfish' Backlash
SeaWorld San Diego today announced an expansion of their existing killer whale enclosures, likely a response to declining attendance and revenue in the wake of controversy stirred up by the documentary Blackfish.
The new "Blue World Project" will nearly double the capacity of the current orca habitat at the San Diego Park to 10 million gallons of water, and cover a total surface area of about 1.5 acres, providing the park's 10 whales with more living space. Although the total cost of the project has not been disclosed, SeaWorld also said it would be pledging $10 million towards research and conservation of orcas in the wild. The goal of the new habitat expansion is threefold, aiming "to advance global understanding of these animals, to educate, and to inspire conservation efforts to protect killer whales in the wild" according to Jim Atchison, CEO and President of SeaWorld Entertainment in a press release.
On Wednesday, the company's stock plunged 30% after they reported a decline in attendance and revenue over the past year. The company cited various reasons for the decline in attendance, but most notably among them the controversy caused by the documentary Blackfish. The film, which makes the argument that killer whales kept in captivity develop abnormal and dangerous behaviors, also inspired a bill that would ban orca shows. That bill has since stalled in the Legislature.
A longtime critic of SeaWorld, was not impressed. "This is a desperate drop-in-the-bucket move to try to turn back the hands of time when people understand the suffering of captive orcas, and it will not save the company. A bigger prison is still a prison," PETA's director of animal law Jared Goodman told the LA Times.
Construction is slated to begin next year at the San Diego park, with the habitat to open to the public in 2018. SeaWorld's Orlando and San Antonio parks will also build their own new orca habitats in the future.