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Coastal Commission To Vote On SeaWorld Killer Whale Tank Project

Coastal Commission To Vote On SeaWorld Killer Whale Tank Project

GUESTS:

Hendrik Nollens, senior veterinarian, SeaWorld San Diego

Jared Goodman, director of animal law, PETA Foundation

Transcript

The California Coastal Commission is scheduled to vote this week on SeaWorld's controversial plan to expand its orca tanks.

The staff is recommending that the commission approve SeaWorld's Blue World project, which will expand the water volume of the orca tank to 10 million gallons, with some conditions.

Hendrik Nollens, senior veterinarian at SeaWorld San Diego, said the project consists two components. The first component is an expansion of the habitat, while the second includes more research on the animals.

"SeaWorld has expanded and renewed its killer whale habitat every 15 years," Nollens told KPBS Midday Edition on Monday. "We are building bigger and better homes for them. Basically, we're adding a lagoon — the lagoon is really quite revolutionary."

The proposal has received more than 150,000 responses. Perhaps, the proposal's biggest critic is People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

PETA said the $100 million expansion won't make a difference, and worries the new facility will be used to breed more killer whales.

"It does nothing to better the lives of the orcas," Jared Goodman, director of animal law at the PETA Foundation, said. "After every single expansion, we see that the tanks are still woefully inadequate."

Goodman said SeaWorld should stop the "abnormal activities" at the park and move the orcas to a coastal "sanctuary."

Nollens denied the tanks are inadequate.

"Our pools have always been adequate for the number of whales we have," Nollens said. "As the population grows, we provide bigger habitats. We have responsibility and we take it seriously."

SeaWorld has been working to rebuild its image since the release of the documentary "Blackfish," which criticized its treatment of killer whales. Last week, the company's quarterly report showed revenue dropped 3 percent, while attendance fell 2 percent.

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