The government recommends allowing SeaWorld to expand the killer whale facility at its San Diego park, outraging environmentalists who say the tanks could be used to breed more orcas to be kept in captivity. The staff of the California Coastal Commission made the recommendations today ahead of the regulatory board's Oct. 8 meeting where it is scheduled to vote on SeaWorld's permit request for the $100 million expansion. The staff recommends attaching nine conditions to the permit that include requiring SeaWorld to not house newly captured orcas at its San Diego location. It also acknowledges removing any orcas from US waters "would be an adverse impact to California's coastal resources and to a species of special biological significance."
Tens of thousands have written the commission about the issue. Many expressed opposition to the plans, calling the expansion a marketing ploy to boost SeaWorld attendance, which has plummeted since the 2013 documentary Blackfish, which suggests the park's treatment of captive orcas provokes violent behavior. Some environmentalists fear the bigger facility will be used by SeaWorld to breed more orcas. "They could breed all the orcas they want with this facility and ship them all over the world," one activist says. SeaWorld says in its proposal that the orca population housed at the new facility would not significantly increase. The project, called "Blue World," would open in 2018 if approved. (Read more SeaWorld stories.)