An artist's rendering depicts a natural setting with rocks, a small beach and grasses.
Debate over keeping killer whales in captivity was brought into the mainstream press by the 2013 documentary "Blackfish."
The first expansion will take place at SeaWorld San Diego, where the killer-whale environment is planned to have a total water volume of 10 million gallons, nearly double that of the existing facility. The new habitat will also have views exceeding 40 feet in height, providing what
"Through up-close and personal encounters, the new environment will transform how visitors experience killer whales," Chief Executive Officer
Among other things, the upgrade is planned to include a "fast water current" that allows whales to swim against moving water, thus providing more exercise.
Animal-rights activists were not placated by the announcement.
"This is a desperate drop-in-the-bucket move to try to turn back the hands of time at a time when people understand the suffering of captive orcas, and it will not save the company,"
"What could save it would be the recognition that it needs not to make larger tanks but to turn the orcas out in seaside sanctuaries so that they can feel and experience the ocean again, hear their families, and one day be reunited with them. A bigger prison is still a prison."
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