SeaWorld has been in a bit of a pickle since the documentary Blackfish (and its ensuing soaring viewership on CNN and Netflix) came out in 2013. The documentary, which features several former SeaWorld trainers, exposes the park's inhumane practices with orcas, including how the whales are kept in small, cramped tanks.
But last week, SeaWorld announced a new project that will supposedly expand its orcas' tanks, doubling the space they currently live in with deeper water. They also announced the formation of an advisory group that includes a professor from UC Davis veterinary school, a researcher at UC Santa Cruz, and a physiologist at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla.
The project, dubbed Blue World, is the company's multimillion-dollar attempt at expanding its captive orcas' environment while showing a very concerned public that it cares about their whales.
Here are seven reasons why this project is a complete and utter joke:
7. Tilikum Killed People Because Captivity Drove Him Nuts Orca bull Tilikum has killed three people. One of them, a trainer he basically scalped as he threw her around like a rag doll. The reason this happened wasn't because orcas are evil monsters. It's because Tilikum has been confined to an artificial space where he spends his days as frustrated as you would be if you had to live your whole life in a box. And Tilikum isn't the only orca in captivity to attack and kill humans. But Tilikum, who still lives his days in Orlando's SeaWorld, is the face of this whole whale-in-captivity experiment gone horribly wrong. Meanwhile, there have been exactly zero recorded moments of an orca attacking a human in the wild. Bigger tanks are going to fix that?
Which leads us to...
6. The Fancy Big Changes Are Still Artificial The crux of SeaWorld's Blue World Project is that the new tanks will be bigger, covering 1.5 acres at 50 feet deep and 350 feet wide. The new tanks will hold 10 million gallons of water, which is double the amount they currently hold. The new tanks will also feature a 40-foot partition for people to view the whales below the water line. That seems like a better situation than what the whales are currently in. But whales belong in the unlimited open space of the ocean, where they can roam freely in their own habitat, and not in a glorified bathtub with people watching them. Orcas are known for traveling vast miles in a straight line at high speeds, use the ocean depth to communicate with each other for miles, and send their clicks and signals to hunt for prey -- as they are designed by nature to do. An artificial tank, no matter how large, still stifles an orca's very existence. This is why you see orcas in parks with drooping dorsal fins, and orcas in the wild with straight, erect dorsal fins. At the end of the day, they're still limited to where they can swim, are still expected to jump into the air for fish, and will still be watched by people for money. None of these things happen in the wild.
(Also, again, they don't kill people in the wild.)
5. These Changes Were About Money, Nothing More Back in March, SeaWorld insisted that Blackfish and the ensuing protests had no impact whatsoever on their bottom line or on how the park would handle its business. Now, suddenly, as if by magic, it's decided to announce its Blue World Project out of thin air.
Coincidentally, it's doing this just as news of the company's bottom line is getting rocked on Wall Street. Last week came the news that the company's stock fell 33 percent. Attendance has been flat this summer (a time when attendance is high for theme parks), and the company is hemorrhaging money. Now, out of the blue, comes the decision to construct the bigger tanks and hire an advisory group. SeaWorkd still insists that this is about the trainers and the whales and not the protesters. The company does this while pointing out that "more than 20,000 people will visit SeaWorld today who will enjoy our park and be inspired by our animals." Even in its statement announcing Blue World, SeaWorld can't help but try to make it sound as if all is well, nothing to worry about here, look at all the people coming to our park, you should totally come to the park too!