Amidst the Blackfish backlash, toxic SeaWorld throws a bone to California politicians and Wall Street. Instead of responding to public pressure and collapsing stock, SeaWorld doubles down on captivity. In lieu of taking the proverbial high road (phasing out shows, placing its female killer whales on oral contraception, and leading the way on coastal sanctuaries) SeaWorld pompously announces more captivity, more pools, more breeding, and international expansion.
What just happened?
The proposed Blue World Project is a media play. Plain and simple. Rolled out to a live audience with a suspenseful unveiling, replete with rumors planted the day before, and some ballpark figures provided to Wall Street. It was a spectacle.There isn't much information on how the Blue World Project would impact the Mission Bay ecosystem. As recently as 2012, SeaWorld was cited and fined for polluting it. Subsequently, its hard to believe that SeaWorld can begin digging a massive hole on city property, with additional water treatment equipment, without due process. This would include environmental impact studies and approvals from regulatory agencies including the California Coastal Commission and the city itself. SeaWorld leases the land from San Diego. Check out this excerpt from Frank Gromlie in the San Diego Free Press, October 23, 2012:
SeaWorld is not just any corporate entity. Outside of the thousands of birds crapping in the water, one of the biggest polluters of Mission Bay is SeaWorld itself. Just earlier this year, SeaWorld was fined $6,000 for dumping excessive ammonia and animal waste into the Bay. [See more here.]
SeaWorld is the largest discharger of water into the Bay and has been a known polluter of the body of water, as the bay has been on California's list of impaired water bodies for several years as it does not meet the Clean Water Act standards.
Next, note the relatively long timeline for implementation, and also how it will happen one park at a time. This gives the #SeaCircus plenty of wiggle room and lowers risk.
A large proposal that will likely require city and regulatory approval
If California's Assembly Bill 2140 (AB-2140, available here) passes, the San Diego "Blackfish puppy-mill" idea will likely evaporate, as breeding captive killer whales would then be illegal. Faced with that, SeaWorld could halt the plans, or even shift the project to Orlando, a site that makes more sense, once you remove the politics. (I'll discuss this in a moment.)