SeaWorld announced today that all three of their US theme parks will be receiving a massive upgrade to their orca habitats. Called the Blue World Project, the new habitats will nearly double the existing space of the current areas.
The new habitats will encompass up to 1.5 acres and contain a volume of 10 million gallons. As part of the new environment, guests will be able to see the orcas through a 40 foot tall viewing area.
“For 50 years, SeaWorld has transformed how the world views marine life. The unprecedented access to marine mammals that our parks provide has increased our knowledge of the ocean and inspired generations,” said Jim Atchison, Chief Executive Officer and President of SeaWorld Entertainment, Inc. “Our new killer whale homes and research initiatives have just as bold a vision: to advance global understanding of these animals, to educate, and to inspire conservation efforts to protect killer whales in the wild.”
“Through up-close and personal encounters, the new environment will transform how visitors experience killer whales,” said Atchison. “Our guests will be able to walk alongside the whales as if they were at the shore, watch them interact at the depths found in the ocean, or a birds-eye view from above.”
The first of the new orca habitats will begin construction at SeaWorld in San Diego followed by Orlando and finally San Antonio with the initial opening planned for 2018.
In addition to the new orca habitat, SeaWorld has commited to $10 million in matching funds for research into threats faced by killer whales in the wild.
“Like so many others in science and industry, we are constantly learning more about how we can evolve our knowledge and continue to learn more about these amazing animals and stewardship of those in the wild,” Atchison said. “We look forward to working with these experts to build on these learnings and achieve our vision of increased knowledge of killer whales and global efforts to protect those in the wild.”
SeaWorld has been plagued recently with low attendance and outrage on social media following the release of the CNN sponsored Blackfish documentary last July. This past Wednesday, SeaWorld stock took a 33% plunge in price after the theme park company reported lower than expected earnings.
Jared Goodman, director of animal law for PETA, told the LA Times, “Anyone who cares about marine life and wants orcas and dolphins to live free with their pods is cheering the fact that SeaWorld’s stock is tanking.”
SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment stock price was up 1.43% this afternoon at 18.26.