Amid a year and a half of public backlash stemming from the documentary Blackfish, SeaWorld has announced it will be constructing new, bigger killer whale habitats. The first, at the company’s San Diego location, is slated to open in 2018, with new tanks at its Orlando and San Antonio locations to follow.
“We do think these new habitats will have an effect on the financial side of the business,” SeaWorld CEO Jim Atchison said in a conference call with press, as reported in the San Antonio Express-News. “In addition to being habitats for our whales, these are going to be great attractions.”
In December, Atchison announced he would be stepping down from his position as CEO on January 15. According to CNN Money, SeaWorld’s stock has dropped more than 50 percent since it first started trading in April 2013, and visits to its parks nationwide were down 5 percent in November from the previous year. Blackfish, a documentary about keeping killer whales in captivity at SeaWorld and elsewhere, was released in July 2013.
The new tank environment at SeaWorld’s San Diego location will be constructed to hold 10 million gallons of water—nearly double the volume of the existing facility—and will incorporate a fast-water current, which Atchison called a “whale treadmill.” The 1.5-acre surface area tank will span more than 350 feet in length, with a maximum depth of 50 feet.
But some feel these changes don’t go far enough. PETA Foundation director of animal law Jared Goodman, as quoted in the Express-News, called the announcement “irrelevant.” “The public is still aware that these conditions are just still woefully inadequate,” he said.