Sea World Orca Enclosure Expansion

From ActCoastal

Month October
Year 2015
Summary Sea World submitted a coastal development permit application to build larger orca tanks at its San Diego facility. This project involves expansion of its current orca facility by replacing it with a new 450,000-gallon and a 5.2 million gallon pool; and replacing a 5,500 sqft bathroom and food facility with a new 2,900 sqft one. The turnout was substantial, including concerned citizens, organizational representatives and even a few celebrities, some of whom for and some against the project.

Some animal rights activists opposed increasing the size of the orca tanks, arguing that this bettering of the standard of living for the far-roaming-turned-captive mammals would only result in continued breeding of captive orcas. Others felt that the orca tanks should only be expanded on the express condition that breeding of captive orcas would not be allowed. Some testimony focused on energy (GHG emissions) and water use required not only for the building of the tanks but for the general maintenance, considering the water-scarce climate and current. After substantial debate and discussion, the Commission voted to approve the project with conditions including the prohibiting of further breeding of orcas and any transfer of captive orcas from other facilities. While those conditions pleased many, the decision has been controversial as some question whether or not the Commission overstepped it legal authority under the Coastal Act.

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Outcome Description Following an initial proposed condition by Commissioner Cox, asking that a cap be placed on Sea World’s current population of 15 orcas, Commissioner Bochco proposed a more restrictive condition that was well received by other members of the Commission. After being informed by counsel that the CCC was not pre-empted by other federal and state agencies, Commissioner Bocho proposed a condition prohibiting the breeding and transferring of orcas, which was seconded by Commissioner Shallenberger and approved by all Commissioners, with the exception of Commissioner Cox. The condition was approved by a majority and the CDP was then voted on and approved unanimously.
Why You Should Care Based on the mandate in Section 30230 of the Coastal Act, which protects marine resources and species of special significance, the Commission ruled to allow the expansion of the pools with the condition that the breeding and transfer of orcas cease. This ruling comes amidst increasing scrutiny of such facilities, with growing controversy of the capturing and training orcas in captivity and resources (such as the film Blackfish) showing the detrimental impact of life in captivity for such large and far roaming creatures. Just one month later, California lawmakers [1] announced proposed legislation that would phase out the captivity of orcas completely. The building momentum to begin the regulation of captive marine animals comes more than 40 years after the enacting of the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972- prohibiting the take of marine mammals in U.S. waters and by U.S. citizens.
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Decision Type Coastal Development Permit
Staff Recommendation Approval with Conditions
Staff Report
Lobbyist/Agent Susan McCabe, McCabe and Company
Opposition to Project PETA, Assemblymember Richard Bloom, Unite Here Local 11, Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, Western Alliance for Nature, Earth Island, SONAR, Endangered Habitats League, Black Surfers Collective, Humane Society of U.S., Whaleman Foundation, Coastal Environmental Rights Foundation, Shark Stewards, Smith River Alliance, Biodiversity First, Tolowa Dunes Stewards, Organization of Regional Coastal Advocates, Friends of the Earth, Los Cerritos Wetlands Land Trust, Grassroots Coalition, Environmental Protection Information Center, Wildlands Conservancy, League for Coastside Protection, ECOSLO, Faith Action for Animals, West Marin Environmental Action Committee, Origami Whales Project, S. California Watershed Alliance
Coastal Act Policies § 30230, 30001, 30001.5, 30411, 30210, 30211, 30212, 30213, 30604, 30231, 30253, 30251

Voting Detail for Sea World Orca Enclosure Expansion

Individual vote detail for Issue: Sea World Orca Enclosure Expansion
Mary LuevanoGood Vote
Erik HowellGood Vote
Wendy MitchellGood Vote
Roberto UrangaGood Vote
Steve KinseyGood Vote
Effie Turnbull-SandersGood Vote
Mary K. ShallenbergerGood Vote
Greg CoxGood Vote
Carole GroomGood Vote
Mark VargasGood Vote
Martha McClureGood Vote
Dayna BochcoGood Vote

Meeting Page

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