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SeaWorld Moves One Step Closer To Expanding Orca Tanks

Sep 28, 2015 03:45 PM EDT

SeaWorld has gained support from the California Coastal Commission (CCC) who are recommending that the theme park be allowed to build larger tanks for their killer whales but the government agency's decision is angering animal rights groups who believe it only encourages the company to breed more orcas in captivity. To move forward with their expansion, SeaWorld must abide by the commission's conditions.  

The recommendation was issued ahead of a CCC board meeting scheduled for Oct. 8, where Seaworld's permit request for a $100 million expansion project, known as "Blue World," will be voted on. In their recommendation, the commission included nine additional conditions, one of which restricts SeaWorld from housing any orcas taken from the wild after February 2014.

SeaWorld believes their expansion project would create a more natural, dynamic and adaptable environment, according to ABC News. However, conservations believe the commission's regulations do nothing to discourage the park from breeding more orcas.  

"This is not limiting them in any way. In fact, this would do the opposite," Sara Wan, a former commissioner who now works as a consultant for the Animal Defense Legal Fund, said in a statement. "They could breed all the orcas they want with this facility and ship them all over the world."

The 2013 documentary "Blackfish" gave people the impression that SeaWorld's captive breeding has led to violent behavior in the marine animals. This caused a drastic decline in park attendance, so conservationists believe expanding tanks could be a ploy to reel in more customers.

SeaWorld plans to expand their "Shamu" killer whale tank to a 5.2 million gallons from the current 1.7 million gallon pool.  The plans also call for a smaller 450,000 gallon pool. 

"The proposed Blue World project will provide not only an expanded habitat for whales, but also new opportunities for researchers to conduct studies that will benefit killer whales and other cetaceans in the wild," Paul Ponganis, a researcher at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, added in a SeaWorld statement. 

The Blue World project would open in 2018.  

For more great nature science stories and general news, please visit our sister site, Headlines and Global News (HNGN).

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