While attendance at SeaWorld has dropped by 13 percent, the attendance of similar marine parks in China seem to be skyrocketing. China is currently the largest importer of beluga whales and dolphins in the world, and according to a new report recently published on China File, they will soon add the coveted orca whale to the list of their imports.

The launch of Ocean Kingdom, a marine theme park that features the world’s largest aquarium, has raised alarm with cetacean groups across the globe as reports say the park’s intention is to showcase killer whales.

Many of the belugas and dolphins that reside in Chinese aquariums and marine parks are obtained from Russian waters (or the infamous cove in Taiji) and anti-captivity advocates have reason to believe that two of the orcas featured at Ocean Kingdom were obtained along the same means.

If suspicions are confirmed, then China would be the first country to feature a wild caught killer whale in a marine park since 1990. While there is no question that wild animals should not be held in captivity and forced to perform, this development is especially troubling due to the growing demand for cetacean theme parks in China.

In addition, marine theme parks are not regulated by the same body who regulates zoos in China, but rather by the Ministry of Agriculture which is known for their tendency to lay all their interests in major capitol investments. With an average of 109 million people who attend marine parks every year, the proceeds that Ocean Kingdom is expected to reap does not bode well for the future of wild caught orcas.

Qin Xiaona, the director of Beijing-based NGO, Capital Animal Welfare Association, comments on China’s aggressive push towards development at any cost, “We are developing at the cost of the environment, the animals, and even some of our own people … As long as they have profits to make, they don’t care about anything.”

If wild orcas continue to be harvested from the ocean, their populations are guaranteed to tumble below a rate that can ever recover. The push to ban marine parks in the U.S. can be greatly accredited to the growing popularity of the film, “Blackfish.” There is a bootleg version of the film floating around China, but an official translated version has yet to be released. If producers of “Blackfish” can make this happen, surely some positive change can come into place in China, just as it has here in the U.S.

Image source: Clayoquot/Wikimedia Commons