Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
KPBS Midday Edition

Coastal Commission To Vote On SeaWorld Killer Whale Tank Project

Coastal Commission To Vote On SeaWorld Killer Whale Tank Project
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

Maureen Cavanaugh and it is Monday, October 5. There is some San Diego stories we're following in the newsroom. A frantic study of substance abuse among terminal suspect shows that half of all women look into chair jail in San Diego County had met in their systems. FS 7% increase in Matthews among women compared to the year before. Was much higher for men taking into custody. County health officials urge beachgoers today to avoid contact with the water due to bacteria laden runoff. Occurring to the department of environmental health, coastal waters including Mission Bay and say "they should be avoided for 72 hours after rain. Right now, 65 degrees in downtown San Diego. Our top story on midday addition, the staff of the California coastal commission has given an initial vision rectory to see what San Diego. The status recommends approval the world plans to expand its the building take. Is very controversy a. Because the commission says it has received more than 150,000 emails, letters and postcards about the also running almost 421 against the plan. SeaWorld has been working to rebuild the image and incomes of the release of the documentary like this which criticized how they house and train the color wells. Joining me today is Dr. Hendrick Nollens, a senior veterinarian at Sea world San Diego. Welcome to the program. Were expecting John Reilly, president of Seabrook San Diego but we are happy you can join us today. What is the purpose of this expansion project called the world? It consists of two components -- the habitat expansion you mentioned earlier. The second one is a million-dollar donation to the world -- you well. That is the largest private donation of this kind. The biggest part or component of the project is the habitat expansion for killer whales. It is the fifth expansion and deposit history. Part of the ongoing evolution of how we house and care for killer whales. This particular one will actually take the current size of the habitat and add it to an existing. We are adding a big Lagoon. This lagoon is revolutionary compared to our previous editions of the habitats. It has a very and to -- because up to 50 feet deep. A fast work on up to 20 kn. There is similar to what the wells have access to in the wild. Has a number of electronic modules that are cast into the its walls spoke were taking advantage of the technology to open up tremendous opportunities for researchers but also for environmental enrichment for the wells. The an adequate size of the holding things was one of the issues brought up in the movie practice. Is this a response to the criticism? If you look at our history, we have -- was founded 50 years ago has expanded and renewed its habitat every 15 to 20 years. The last one was in the 90s. We were doing. This was coming anyway. Is part of the evolution. We learn how to take care of color wells and we are building better homes for them. Was the documentary rights? Killer whales did need a bigger place -- better holding tanks? Our present always been adequate. There is no doubt about that. Actually as our population grows we provide bigger habitats because it makes common sense. Wells in the wild travel more, longer distances than our close to because they have to. The trouble from the outsourced source. They don't swim a couple of dozen miles just for fun. Our Wellston have to do that. We provide food for them. There is a process right there. So we have a responsibility and we take it serious. To make up for that -- if they been -- spin 50% traveling from food source. We make up for that with play sessions and enrichment sessions. A lot of research questions. There are currently 12 active research projects ongoing with our killer whales. From hearing studies to studying actually calibrating conservation techniques apply to wild resident killer whales in the climate. The larger building approved you expect to put more Orca wells into them? No, the project engineer -- engineered for maximum capacity. 15 to 20 well. This would allow for a business for the next 20 years. This expansion. The company is doubling down on its investment. And training color wells to perform insurance. While many are calling for the SeaWorld to be phased out as performance. SeaWorld make it without the cost. Killer wells are no doubt -- the reason we have this debate going on today, the are most charismatic and magnificent ambassadors of the environment. Especially at a time where oceans are in peril, so much stress going on, so many negative headlines about the ocean out there every day. You can't the ocean's best ambassadors. This would be a public to these animals have a huge value. Would be a big loss to society to you lose the species. There is no way to humanely faced the animals out -- breeding is a very natural ASIC enriching thing to do for wells. The wells are living in a socio-compatible group, they are healthy, they have adequate resources and the recruitment into the -- has a time of positive social changes. We see more synchronize behaviors. It would be inhumane to not let a social animal breed. Let me bring my next guest into the conversation. That is, I want to speak to Jarret Goodman, director of animal law at the PETA foundation. The people for the ethical treatment of animals. Welcome to the program. Date for having me. By a you a post? It does nothing to better the lives of the wells that are help their. This project is clearly intended to mislead the project -- public to believe a tank that appears more natural to them means more humane captivity. This is clear from the fact this project was announced just two days after -- dropped 33%. The California coastal commission staff when it gave the recommendation to the coastal commission before this expansion project, said it could not legally consider the effect on killer whales and deciding on this project. They could consider what its basic environmental impact on coastal waters. You agree she might ? Is within the -- to consider the The book as they are. It would be consistent with the purpose of the law. The outcast with enforcing. Their own actions and 2002 when they consider the welfare of offense at Sea world when approving a new ride that was being built. In the staff report which is consistent, the staff indicated they should be considering the welfare of the Orca and place a condition on it that reflects they were considering the noise impacts on those very same animals. Dr. Nolan's just basically said the project will expand the habitat for the wells. That are at Sea world. Also expanded new opportunities for research. How does that explanation sit with PETA First with regards to the specific expansion depart has had, after every single expansion we have seen the tanks are still in adequate. The Orca at Sea world exhibit abnormal behaviors like biting on the side of the tank and attacking each other. This is something that has happened with the tanks were one third the size they are now in the 1980s. These animals have evolved over millions of years. Some long distances and to live the the and to choose their mates and social partners are deprived of the ability to do any of those things at Sea world. With regard to it being a larger space -- you expressly asked Dr. Nolan whether there would be more focused in the tank. He said no it is designed for 15 to 20 wells. There are 11 and are now. They announced -- when they announced the project, they intend to introduce more animals into the facility. They may have nearly doubled the amount of Orca in the tank. It is not a meaningful difference for them. So Jarret what is PETA alternative? We heard it will be inhumane not to -- to stop this program entirely. We do with these animals? What were PETA recommend happens to these wells were now in captivity? They need to be transferred to coastal sanctuaries. The opportunity to develop where they can live as natural as possible for the rest of their lives. This believe it would be inhumane to stop reading them -- it is inhumane to continue breeding them to a life of deprivation. We have seen from their records that mothers are attacking pass, over Orca are trying to breed with cast that are just days. We need to stop these abnormal activities. Finally, if the commission approves the project of these the world project will PETA seek legal action # PETA will take all possible opportunities into account to assure that the world is not entrenched in the cost of Southern California. Jarret Goodman, director of animal law at PETA, thank you so much. I have seen you taking notes here, you have a lot of response. Can you pick out what the major response you would like to make to what Jarret said? I was taking notes because there are so many things I can say and want to say. About all ultimately it comes down to I wholeheartedly disagree this expansion will not improve the lives of our wells. That is exactly what it is designed to do. It provides a big Lagoon wealth can interact and swim and. They are loving beaches -- more of the natural behaviors. The second component is it has tremendous educational at the duties -- opportunities. The penalty to the deep and it would be a 40 foot acrylic window. People will be able to watch these animals. This is outside the show component. We are partnering with scientists, Scripps institution of oceanography to make sure that we maximize the benefits of this project for our wells. I could not disagree more. Just to be clear, we separated these interviews at Sea world request. This summer Dr. Nolan, the entire Sea world entertainment operation reported a second-quarter earnings that were 84% lower than the previous year. Is the part is not see this trend turning around are you aware of any discussions the company is having about how to move forward? I am an animal guy. I take care of animals. I am one member of a big team of people who take care of animals. That is what we do as. I can't speak to that. It the coastal commission does up with the project what is next? When will construction start? As soon as possible. We had envisioned to start this project is Paul. Ultimately opened this new habitat at the beginning of 2018. What about Jarret's point about the number of Orca who will be held in this expanding tank if it is ". You have 11 performing wells now? There has been a lot of information -- misinformation about a lot of things but especially this topic. Is portrayed that the world is just increasing the breeding capacity. Killer whales are a slope reproducing species. The lactation is 23 years, sometimes longer. Over the last 15 years. Company will wipe off for parks the killer well population has grown by 3% a year. This project is engineered for 15 to 20 wells. There is simply no room for increased breeding and project the world. There will be more wells and this expanded holding tank. It goes up from 18 -- 11 to 18. That is our hope. We have a happy driving population. The only whales population that is driving. At the other parks, the populations are not driving? Yes they are -- just at the world. Will you be at the coastal commission hearing? Is I will. It does meet and vote and get public comment this Wednesday. Meeting at the Long Beach convention Center. I have been speaking with the doctor Hendrick Nollens. Dr. Nolan Scott thank you very much.

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.