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Environment & Science

Former SeaWorld trainer, PETA lawyer debate future of ocean park after Orca breeding ban




In this handout photo provided by SeaWorld San Diego, a baby killer whale calf nurses from its mother, Kalia, at SeaWorld San Diego's Shamu Stadium  in San Diego, California.
In this handout photo provided by SeaWorld San Diego, a baby killer whale calf nurses from its mother, Kalia, at SeaWorld San Diego's Shamu Stadium in San Diego, California.
Handout/Getty Images

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SeaWorld got a mixed decision yesterday from the California Coastal Commission, which unanimously approved a $100 million expansion of the tanks SeaWorld uses to hold killer whales in San Diego — but banned breeding of the captive orcas that would live in them.

The vote also prevents the whales from being bred somewhere else and transported to the park. SeaWorld currently has 11 orcas, but once they die, it would mean the end of SeaWorld's live orca shows.

Animal rights activists praised Thursday's decision as a death blow to the use of killer whales at the California ocean park. But others defend SeaWorld's practices and say they know more about the animals than anyone and are qualified to humanely care for them. Do you agree with the California Coastal Commission's ban?

Kyle Kittleson, a former senior killer whale trainer at SeaWorld in Orlando, and an animal behavioral expert, spoke to AirTalk about the potential impact Thursday's decision would have:

"There's a lot of implications and again this really just affects the San Diego SeaWorld. SeaWorld has parks in San Antonio and Orlando, but the biggest of facts is that SeaWorld and its scientists and outside teams of scientists learn so much from being able to work so intimately with these animals, and this year SeaWorld has been able to donate $10 million to wild killer whales research and obviously that comes from the success of its parks and killer whales are a huge draw for that ... To phase out killer whales as people are putting it, is to really phase out wildlife conservation and wildlife care, education and research. These animals are able to reproduce so they should be able to be reproduce. This is a natural behavior and they should be able participate and partake in that natural behavior."

Jared Goodman, Director of Animal Law at PETA, offered his take on AirTalk:

"We fully support the commission's decision and we think they did right by orcas in requiring as a condition of approval for the Blue World Project that Sea World stop breeding them. This isn't putting SeaWorld out of business, it's ensuring that this is the last generation of orcas who are going to suffer in tanks at SeaWorld of California and ultimately end long suffering [of] orcas in the state. SeaWorld has admitted that it intended this new tank to breed, which would in fact cause the orcas who are there to have less space than they currently do now."