Whether it’s a reaction to a 13 percent drop in April’s attendance (and a 33 percent fall in stocks just this week) or their way of attempting to abide by the whole “SeaWorld Cares” motto, SeaWorld San Diego plans to expand their killer whale tanks.

According to SeaWorld San Diego’s website, “[T]he killer whale environment is planned to have a total water volume of 10 million gallons, nearly double that of the existing facility. With a planned maximum depth of 50 feet, surface area of nearly 1.5 acres and spanning more than 350 feet in length, the new environment will also have views exceeding 40 feet in height, providing guests with the world’s largest underwater viewing experience of killer whales.”

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(Note: Before we continue, may we just point out how the last bit of that sentence refers to benefiting only SeaWorld guests. We’re just saying.)

Named the Blue World Project, the renovation will include the addition of a “fast water current” that will allow captive orcas to swim against a mock current and allow for “increased engagement with SeaWorld experts through new enriching experiences and other interactive programs.”

The park also plans on spending $10 million in funds for research and conservation projects dealing with wild orcas. These projects, as mentioned in the online announcement, include “understanding the hearing ranges of killer whales and the other that will provide insight into nutritional status and reproduction of the Southern Resident Killer Whale.”

Since the documentary Blackfish hit the big screens, people everywhere have been getting more involved in the anti-captivity movement. Although these plans may seem like a step in the right direction, we Green Monsters have to ask…why not just invest this money toward rehabilitation and release programs?

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Let’s not forget that though SeaWorld may be firm in making the change, there is also a history of unrequited promises in the world of captive cetaceans. In 1999, Miami Seaquarium owner, Arthur Hertz, announced publicly that the Seaquarium’s sole orca resident, Lolita, would be receiving a much needed renovation on her tank that fall. Fifteen years later and Lolita is still swimming the same laps.

Furthermore, will these “revolutionary tanks” even benefit the animals that are currently residing at SeaWorld? Poor living conditions are a major player in the anti-captivity movement but, it’s not the only thing to consider.

Are we supposed to forget about the fact that orcas can swim up to 100 miles in a day (something they will never be able to do in captive environments)? Will these changes prevent trainers from having to cover orca sunburns with black zinc oxide? Will any renovation prevent premature deaths, increase the lifespan of captive killer whales or even deter SeaWorld’s knack of misinforming their guests for the sake of–what seems to us–justifying their captivity programs?

Now Green Monsters, what is your opinion? Do you believe the renovation and research funds will actually benefit orcas, or is it simply a facade being used to shield SeaWorld of any further economic losses?

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Image source: Antoine Taveneaux/Wikimedia Commons

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