SeaWorld San Diego has notified the California Coastal Commission that it is dropping plans for a $100 million expansion of its orca habitat, following an earlier decision by its parent firm to discontinue whale breeding at all of its marine parks.
In a statement posted on its website, SeaWorld officials said the company has sent a letter to the coastal agency, informing it that the company is pulling the development application for its proposed Blue World whale habit expansion. SeaWorld is also dropping a lawsuit it previously filed against the coastal commission, after it approved the Blue World project on condition that SeaWorld stop breeding its captive killer whales.
The letter said SeaWorld will now focus on enhancing rather than expanding existing habitats, with upcoming features that will enable visitors to interact with and view its parks’ last generation of orcas in “a more naturalistic setting.”
Blue World would have doubled the size of the current orca habitat at the Mission Bay theme park, while adding new underwater viewing areas and other interactive and educational features. It had been slated for a 2018 opening.
Leaders of Orlando-based SeaWorld Entertainment Inc. have said the company will be investing in other attractions emphasizing conservation and education programs at its marine parks in San Diego, Orlando and San Antonio, Texas.
SeaWorld San Diego plans to begin construction this summer on Ocean Explorer, a new attraction combining multiple aquariums, rides and digital technologies, set for a spring 2017 opening. It will be located in another location of the park, separate from where Blue World had been planned.
SeaWorld previously announced the discontinuation of whale performance shows at its theme parks, among several companywide changes spurred in large part by fallout from a 2013 documentary called “Blackfish,” raising issues about the treatment of captive orcas.