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SeaWorld Banned From Breeding Orcas

Orcas performing a show at SeaWorld (Photo by Steven Depolo via the Creative Commons on Flickr)
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San Diego's SeaWorld will no longer be allowed to breed orcas, meaning the 11 whales at the park might be their last.After all all-day meeting on Thursday, the Coastal Commission voted to approve the expansion of the current orca enclosure at the San Diego park with the condition that the park could no longer breed captive whales. The vote also prohibits the sale, transfer, or trade of captive orcas, or killer whales.

"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," said SeaWorld in a statement after the vote. "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."

According to the L.A. Times, the crowd gathered to support or oppose SeaWorld in the vote was so large that the Coastal Commission moved the meeting from Long Beach City Hall to the Long Beach Convention Center. PETA bused in supporters from across the region to the meeting, including Pamela Anderson. The testimony portion of the meeting stretched over eight hours.

PETA initially opposed the park expansion, dubbed "Blue World," saying the whales should be "released into a seaside sanctuary, not a rebranded prison," but later applauded the Coastal Commission's ultimate decision. "The California Coastal Commission did right by orcas in requiring, as a condition of approval for the Blue World Project, that SeaWorld stop breeding them, which will ultimately end captivity for long-suffering orcas in California," said Jared Goodman, PETA's Director of Animal Law. "The commission's action today ensures that no more orcas will be condemned to a nonlife of loneliness, deprivation, and misery."

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It is unclear whether or not SeaWorld will still move ahead with the expansion or pursue any legal action. The amendment does provide an exception in the case of whales caught in the wild, but the San Diego Union-Tribune reports that SeaWorld says they haven't captured a wild orca in 30 years.

SeaWorld's popularity and business has suffered since the release of the documentary Blackfish, which accuses the park of abusing its whales in captivity. The company's stock has dropped significantly since the film's release, and park attendance saw a drop of 12% within a year.