California commission to vote on SeaWorld's orca tank expansion

Reuters News
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Posted: Oct 08, 2015 7:04 AM

(Reuters) - The California Coastal Commission was set on Thursday to vote on a proposal by SeaWorld San Diego to build larger tanks for its killer whales in a plan that has drawn opposition from tens of thousands of people who want to see the orcas released instead.

The proposal has generated record public interest, so much so that the agency will host the vote meeting in the massive Long Beach Convention & Entertainment Center, just south of Los Angeles, to accommodate all those wanting to attend.

At least several hundred opponents and supporters of the proposal are expected to show up.

Experts with the California Coastal Commission issued a report last month in favor of allowing SeaWorld to go ahead with its so-called Blue World Project on several conditions.

Those include one provision limiting SeaWorld on how it could expand its population of 11 killer whales at the San Diego theme park and requiring it to protect the sea mammals from noise during construction.

SeaWorld has drawn up plans for two orca pools, one containing 5.2 million gallons (19.7 million liters) of water and another with 450,000 gallons (1.7 million liters). It would represent an increase in volume of nearly 3.8 million gallons (14.4 million liters), officials said.

As of last month the commission had received more than 120,000 emails from people about the project, most coming from people opposing it, said commission spokeswoman Noaki Schwartz.

A typical email of opposition the commission received said the orcas should be freed from captivity and placed in seaside sanctuaries.

Tens of thousands of letters and post cards were also sent to the commission, and most of those were in support of the plan, she said.

The volume of communication the California Coastal Commission has received on the proposal represents a record for the agency, Schwartz said.

(Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis; Editing by Sandra Maler)