Coastal Commission Approves SeaWorld’s New Decorations for Old Orca Tanks

by on November 5, 2016 · 0 comments

in Culture, Environment, Health, History, Ocean Beach, Organizing, Politics, San Diego, Sports


Rendering of planned backdrop for new orca encounter

By Frank Gormlie

On Friday, November 4th, the California Coastal Commission finally gave SeaWorld what it wanted. In what veteran San Diego Union-Tribune writer, Lori Weisberg, called an “easy approval“, the Commission okayed new decorations for its old Orca tanks.

Call them a new backdrop for the set, call them a new stage for a new Orca encounter, call them whatever – the new decor – which will include a “Northwestern” motif, complete with fake fir trees, fake waterfalls, and a fake rock fiberglass facade – will be for the patrons, the visitors – to make them feel better – it won’t be for the Orcas. They’ll still be in the same old tanks.

Weisberg reported in  her piece , the first one, leading up to the vote, that the “new backdrop behind the show pool” will be “designed to mimic an outdoor coastal setting in the Pacific Northwest.”

The new scenery will be a pastoral landscape, incorporating a rugged coastal inlet, artificial Douglas fir trees, cliffs, and waterfalls. The set will be framed by a rockwork facade fashioned from fiberglass, with no part of the backdrop higher than 30 feet.

The good news is that the Orca circus shows will end. Instead, visitors will be able to witness with the new decorations “the marine mammals’ natural behaviors like hunting, eating and communicating,” Weisberg reports. (Will they also be able to witness amorous displays by the Killer Whales?)

Construction of the new stageset is expected to start next January, and a formal ribbon-cutting in Summer 2017.

After the Commission approval, SeaWorld San Diego park president Marilyn Hannes told the SDU-T:

“The new Orca Encounter takes killer whale presentations to a new level of education, allowing us to inform millions of park guests over the next several decades about the natural history, physical abilities and the conservation steps necessary to ensure the future survival of this species in the wild.”

“Natural history”? Is this double-speak? It has been well-documented that Orcas often suffer extreme stress while in these small tanks, and their fins curl up -something that doesn’t occur in the true wild.

Well, you doubters, the editors at the San Diego U-T are very impressed with the new decorations and believe this is SeaWorld’s road to regain its reputation and all San Diegans should be rooting for their success, as they said in their editorial published Saturday, November 5th.

Once again, the disconnect between San Diego’s establishment and its politicos with those at the grass-roots level on the issue of Orca captivity is clearly demonstrated by this editorial.

It was exactly one year ago, that SeaWorld San Diego announced that it was phasing out the Orca show performances at its San Diego park (not at the other parks).  It was Monday, November 9th, 2015 when the company posted a document that stated that the theatrical Shamu stunts here in San Diego will be replaced with an “informative” experience with a “conservation message inspiring people to act.”

And it was in early October 2015 that SeaWorld had gone before the Coastal Commission with its $100 million Blue World Project plans to double the volume of the Orca tanks (“habitat”) – extended up to 10 million gallons. The expansion – opposed by PETA – was approved by the Commission. But the approval came with a condition: SeaWorld halt its breeding of Orcas.

Apparently, upper-management at SeaWorld went berserk. The San Diego branch refused to abide by the condition – cancelled the tank-doubling – and abandoned the entire Blue World Project, and naturally, left the Orcas in their same, old tanks. But it wasn’t until mid-March of this year that SeaWorld buckled to that damn public pressure – and bottom line – , and announced the end of the company’s controversial breeding programs and the phasing out theatrical killer whale shows at all its locations.

The OB Rag reported in late February that SeaWorld’s stocks had fallen nearly 10% with it’s 4th-quarter earnings report, released February 25th, stating its stocks were down 9.2%. The company also admitted that attendance for the first quarter 2016 was down.  We quoted from one business journal :

shares of SeaWorld were crashing Thursday morning falling as much as 9% after the company announced a weak outlook for the first quarter.Business Insider

Around that same time in late February, SeaWorld made a startling admission – that some of its employees infiltrated animal activist groups, posing as activists and causing internal strife.

SeaWorld has now admitted for the very first time, that some of its employees spied on animal rights groups while they posed as activists.  This admission is 7 months after PETA – People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals – accused SeaWorld of having one of its San Diego HR employees pose as an activist, attend protests and then make outrageous comments on social media.

And of course, the OB Rag has not been immune to SeaWorld’s shenanigans.  We reported the following last December:

There is a small group of SeaWorld supporters (apologists?) who have directly taken on the OB Rag and editor Frank Gormlie. They have a blog and posted a recent article calling out Gormlie by name in a headline refuting his claims about SeaWorld.

About a month ago, Gormlie wrote an article entitled “Why SeaWorld Can’t Build a Hotel at its Location on Mission Bay“, citing the proximity of the old Mission Bay landfill which is known to contain toxic materials.  The article must have touched a nerve somewhere; it did anger the SeaWorld supporters, who have a small blog called Orca Action Network who has the following slogan:

Join us in fighting the agendas of animal rights activists.

Just below the blog’s name is a giant poster advertising various well-known San Diego hotels owned by the Evans family. And, of course, it’s Evans who has pledged to SeaWorld to get them a hotel. Any connection between this “action network” and Mr. Evans? You think?

The SeaWorld supporters came back the other day and slammed Gormlie and the OB Rag with their post entitled: “Sorry, Frank: SeaWorld’s Future Hotel Isn’t Affected by Toxic Waste“. The opening paragraph takes us on:

Lawyer, OB Rag founder, and self-proclaimed “grassroots activist” Frank Gormlie recently posted an article on his opinion website OB Rag on “Why SeaWorld Can’t Build a Hotel at its Location on Mission Bay“. He argues that because of SeaWorld’s proximity to a former toxic waste dump site, the hotel project which SeaWorld announced recently will not be able to go forward. Luckily, this claim is not true.

Differences of opinion or fact?  One thing immediately should be known. The site that sits at South Shores Park and other areas – including the SeaWorld east parking lot at the very least is STILL a toxic waste dump site. Even the Orca Action Network folks admit it was a “toxic waste dump site”. It was never cleaned up. The City study over a decade ago found that everything would be okay as long as the site was not disturbed.

The other issue is the “proximity” of the old landfill site to SeaWorld and any future hotel diggings.

The OB Rag stated that it was too close to call.

Or maybe SeaWorld is just upset with the OB Rag for publishing the series, “The San Diego 10” – the Captive Orcas of SeaWorld“.

Anyway, looks like the San Diego Orcas will get some new decorations – but they’ll still swim in the same old tanks.

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