one green planet
one green planet

SeaWorld, which was recently banned from breeding captive orca whales by the California Coastal Commission, is now suing the state, saying that the law is overreaching because its animals are not a part of the state’s open waters. Umm … hello?!? That’s exactly the problem!

The initial ban on captive orca breeding at the park all started with SeaWorld’s lackluster attempt to improve its public image, by expanding the tanks at its San Diego aquarium with the proposed $100 million dollar “Blue World” project, which would expand its current 1.7 million gallon tanks to 5.2 million gallon tanks (sure, this would be an improvement for the whales, but still nowhere near the size of the ocean, where orcas can swim around 100 miles per day).

The California Coastal Commission, which regulates land and water use along the state’s expansive coastline, agreed to approve the planning permit for the project, but only with the stipulation that SeaWorld would have to end its captive breeding program at the park. It would also be prohibited from adding new orcas to their facility. According to the Guardian, this measure, which will go into effect in 2018, will additionally ban the sale, trade or transfer of SeaWorld’s current 11 captive orcas. The was a HUGE WIN for orcas, who would otherwise be born into and  live in a bathtub their whole lives, never knowing freedom.

But unfortunately, floundering SeaWorld execs are not to willing to accept this win for whales and are making a desperate attempt to win back their right to breed orcas in captivity – they are now suing the State of California over a technicality.  In its suit, filed in San Diego Superior Court, SeaWorld claims that since its captive orcas are not a part of the California’s oceans, it only has to follow federal regulations and shouldn’t be under jurisdiction of the state.

“The orcas are not, in any way, part of the coastal or marine environment,” the lawsuit states. “All of SeaWorld’s activities with respect to the care, breeding and transportation of orcas occur onshore in the orca pools and not in the marine environment and are specifically governed by federal law.”

We can’t help but laugh at this! Like, wait so you’re telling us that because you stole these whales from the wild and put them in tanks that they are no longer privy to the jurisdiction they would enjoy as free animals? That’s like stealing your siblings toy and then telling your parents they don’t have a right to take it back “because it’s yours now!” Seriously, SeaWorld … are you that oblivious to the fact that it is exactly BECAUSE you took these whales from the wild and bred them in captivity for the past 20+ years that you’re in this mess to begin with? Sheesh!

You see, the entire point of SeaWorld expanding its tanks was to improve its reputation after the 2013 documentary “Blackfish” exposed the horrifying ways the park obtains, breeds, and holds its orcas captive. The film spawned the worldwide #EmptyTheTanks movement as people woke up to the fact that orcas never belonged in captivity to begin with and the park’s ticket sales, as a result, hit an all-time low. The news that San Diego’s park would be ending captive breeding was perhaps the ONLY inkling of positive press SeaWorld has gotten in years … but, of course, now they are set on fighting the one positive move that could actually help their dying business.

SeaWorld Is Sinking

Whether SeaWorld wins this legal battle or not, the park is drowning and a single suit won’t be able to resuscitate it. “Blackfish” has already been seen by millions, becoming the highest ranking film on CNN and has since inspired the proposal of multiple legislative bills affecting captive orcas. As so many audiences are abandoning the park, so are its investors. Blackstone Holdings, a key shareholder, recently sold 19,500,000 shares of their holdings in the company. According to The Guardian, SeaWorld has seen profits plunge 84 percent as customers desert the tourist destination. Recent headlines aren’t helping their reputation either – on December 21, 2015, an 18-year-old orca named Unna was the 38th killer whale to die in captivity at SeaWorld, prompting another round of criticism against the park.

The writing is on the wall for SeaWorld … people simply don’t want to see these magnificent orcas in captivity and without people visiting the park, SeaWorld will soon be history. If SeaWorld was smart and actually cared about its orcas and marine animals at all, it would #EmptyTheTanks and retire its captive animals to marine sanctuaries.

How You Can Help

The first step to ending the exploitation of captive orcas is to stop the breeding programs at all SeaWorld parks. There is no research or education in breeding these animals for our entertainment. Green Monsters, the tides are changing and we need your help! You can start by opting to never visit a marine park and use your voice to urge SeaWorld to stop the abuse of these highly intelligent beings by ending their breeding programs!

Lead image source: Meetu Singhal/Flickr