SeaWorld’s attempt to recover: bigger tanks and water treadmills

Shamu is getting a little more room.
Shamu is getting a little more room.
Image: Reuters/Mathieu Belanger
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SeaWorld Entertainment, which confirmed this week that the outcry over its treatment of killer whales is damaging the theme-park operator’s financials, struck back today with a pledge to build bigger and better habitats for its captive orcas.

The new habitats, dubbed the Blue World Project, would pump 10 million gallons of water into its San Diego tank, up from 5.6 million gallons currently, and provide a “fast water current” for the orcas to exercise. The company’s other killer whale tanks, in Florida and Texas, will be similarly enlarged, with features “customer designed” to the whales’ needs. SeaWorld also vowed to contribute $10 million to research on killer whales, and will establish an independent advisory committee of scientists to oversee the health and general well-being of the company’s orcas.

The efforts might not be enough to appease animal rights activists who object to killer whale captivity as a general concept, but SeaWorld CEO Jim Atchison is hoping the move soothes the concern of more casual critics, like those who may have been swayed by the 2013 documentary Blackfish, which questioned the ethics and practices of the company’s killer whale program and aired on CNN.