(CAPTIVE ORCAS/SEAWORLD) SAN DIEGO — Today, the California Coastal Commission is voting on Sea World’s Blue World Project, a $100 million plan to expand SeaWorld San Diego’s orca tanks. While the proposal sounds promising, many are saying SeaWorld’s plan is simply a PR stunt designed to make the park’s captive whales appear better off than they actually are.

The plans for expansion will barely double the size of the orca habitat, which is still extremely undersized for an adult killer whale. What’s more, these slightly larger tanks could soon be just as cramped, as the park has expressed intent to breed more orcas in captivity if the proposal is approved.

Read on to learn more about SeaWorld San Diego‘s plans for expansion and share your thoughts in the comments below. — Global Animal

PETA is calling for orca whales to be placed in large-scale ocean sanctuaries. Photo Credit: Chris Gotshall/AP Photo
SeaWorld San Diego is currently awaiting approval to expand its orca tanks. The $100 million plan proposes to replace a 1.7-million gallon pool with a 5.2-million gallon tank and 450,000-gallon pool. Photo Credit: Chris Gotshall/AP Photo

The California Coastal Commission is expected Thursday to consider a $100 million proposal to greatly expand the tanks SeaWorld San Diego uses to hold killer whales.

Under the proposal, SeaWorld would demolish portions of a 1995 facility that included a 1.7-million gallon pool and replace it with a 5.2-million gallon tank and 450,000-gallon pool.

The staff of the commission that regulates land and water use along the California coast has recommended approving the expansion under nine conditions that include forbidding SeaWorld from housing recently captured orcas in San Diego.

SeaWorld says it has not collected any orcas in the wild in more than three decades, its animals are well treated and park shows help generate support for conservation.

However, animal rights activists fear the proposed tank expansion would pave the way for breeding the animals in captivity — something they say is cruel no matter the size of the tanks.

The Coastal Commission has been flooded by tens of thousands of emails against the project that opponents also say represents a marketing ploy to boost plummeting park attendance.

Steve-o, an animal rights activist, poses in front of the SeaWorld freeway sign Photo credit: Discoversd.com
Actor, activist, and prankster Steve-o poses in front of the SeaWorld freeway sign in San Diego as part of a stunt in August 2014. Photo credit: Discoversd.com

Attendance at the California park has declined since the release of the population documentary “Blackfish” in 2013, which suggests SeaWorld’s treatment of captive orcas provokes violent behavior. The company’s stock price also has dropped over the past two years.

SeaWorld says negative media attention is partly to blame and there is also increased competition among Florida theme parks and other factors.

Animal rights activists fear SeaWorld will use the expanded tanks to breed orcas and send them to other marine theme parks. They say captivity has cut the life spans of the highly intelligent animals that should be transferred to ocean sanctuaries on the coast.

SeaWorld says its animals have normal breeding interactions in the healthy environment provided by the park, and not allowing its killer whales to breed would be inhumane.

SeaWorld helps the plight of orcas, which were hated and feared before SeaWorld began opening its parks, spokesman David Koontz said in an email to The Associated Press.

“Nearly a half-billion guests to all our SeaWorld parks, and other marine parks around the world, have gotten the chance to experience killer whales firsthand, learn about them and come to appreciate them for the wonderful animals they truly are,” Koontz said.

The orca population at the San Diego facility — which currently numbers 11 — would not significantly increase due to the “Blue World” project it wants to open in 2018, even though the capacity of the tanks would jump, SeaWorld officials have said.

More NBC San Diego: http://www.nbcsandiego.com/news/local/SeaWorld-San-Diego-Orca-Tanks-Coastal-Commission–331246242.html#ixzz3o01LTOVv