SeaWorld Drops Plan|for Bigger Orca Tanks

     SAN DIEGO (CN) — SeaWorld said earlier this week that it will not undertake a $100 million expansion of its orca tanks at its San Diego theme park and will withdraw a lawsuit over the California Coastal Commission’s conditions on the project.
     The park’s decision comes a month after it said it would stop breeding orcas.
     On Monday, SeaWorld sent a letter to the commission saying it was withdrawing the development application for the Blue World orca habitat project.
     Scrapping the project means the lawsuit SeaWorld filed against the commission last year over its condition that SeaWorld stop breeding orcas in order to approve the project is now moot, the park said.
     “Closing the Blue World application file at this time means SeaWorld’s legal challenge to the proposed project conditions is no longer warranted,” SeaWorld attorney David Watson wrote in his letter to the commission. “SeaWorld counsel soon will contact Coastal Commission counsel to discuss dismissal of the pending litigation.”
     The theme park called the commission’s conditional approval of the Blue World project last fall “overreaching,” arguing animal welfare is governed by federal and state laws that do not fall within the commission’s jurisdiction.
     SeaWorld’s Blue World project — originally slated to open in 2018 — would have doubled the water volume of the existing orca facility.
     On March 17, the theme park said it will no longer breed orcas in captivity following months of declining ticket sales attributed to the documentary “Blackfish,” which criticized the park’s treatment of orcas in captivity.
     SeaWorld’s last generation of whales will live out the remainder of their lives in the existing tanks, which the park said will be improved.
     “Since this is the last generation of orcas in our parks, we are focused on enhancing their existing habitats rather than expanding them. Our habitats are among the largest in the world, and we will invest and implement the learning from the Blue World project to enrich our existing orca habitats and viewing areas,” SeaWorld wrote in a blog posted to its website Tuesday afternoon.
     SeaWorld and the Coastal Commission both declined to comment on the dismissal of the lawsuit.

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