The problem is there are no existing sanctuaries and SeaWorld has vowed to let their last generation of 22 orcas live out their lives at their three U.S. theme parks.
PETA has filed a proposal that will be heard at SeaWorld’s annual shareholder’s meeting in June. The nonprofit is only required to hold at least $2,000 of the stock for one year to file a resolution.
Last year, PETA submitted a resolution to stop SeaWorld’s orca breeding program. SeaWorld had applied for a permit to spend $300 million to build larger tanks to breed more orcas and the California Coastal Commission approved the permit on the condition that SeaWorld stopped breeding.
“We had a huge outpouring of public support,” said Jared Goodman, director of animal law for the PETA Foundation in Los Angeles. “Only after the state of California approved the permit, did SeaWorld see the writing on the wall and decide to end the breeding program. We are hoping for a similar progression here.”
PETA has published a website called “SeaWorld of Hurt, Where Happiness Tanks.” It says, the “animals are kept in pitifully small tanks at SeaWorld and denied everything that is natural and important to them. The only thing that people learn from visiting a SeaWorld theme park is how miserable life is for the animals confined there.”
“We are calling for SeaWorld to develop the sanctuaries so these animals can live out their natural lives,” said Goodman. “They clearly have the resources to do it.”
SeaWorld has asked the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission whether PETA’s proposal can be excluded because it is vague and “it is well-known to the proponent that no seaside sanctuaries currently exist.”
SeaWorld declined to comment on PETA’s agenda but referred a reporter to their blog, which outlines the orcas’ future.
“SeaWorld has introduced more than 400 million guests to orcas, and we are proud of our part in contributing to the human understanding of these animals,” said Joel Manby, president and CEO of SeaWorld Entertainment. “As society’s understanding of orcas continues to change, SeaWorld is changing with it. By making this the last generation of orcas in our care and reimagining how guests will experience these beautiful animals, we are fulfilling our mission of providing visitors to our parks with experiences that matter.”
SeaWorld has not collected a whale from the wild in nearly 40 years. Their 22 orcas are the last generation under human care. SeaWorld has 11 orcas in San Diego, five in San Antonio and six in Orlando.
And while SeaWorld has no plans to build a sanctuary, a west coast nonprofit is trying to raise funds for an ocean refuge for orcas and beluga whales.
Lori Marino, president, of The Whale Sanctuary Project, said they are searching for a sanctuary site off the coast of Nova Scotia, British Columbia and Washington. They hope to open a $20 million facility by 2019.
“Orcas and belugas are not thriving in concrete tanks,” said Marino, a neuroscientist and expert in animal behavior and intelligence. “That’s not a debate at this point, that’s a scientific fact. They need a refuge where their well being is a priority. We can’t just dump them back in the ocean and expect them to survive and a sanctuary is the next best thing.”