'Blackfish' director says SeaWorld expansion won't improve living conditions for orcas

SAN DIEGO - The director of the film "Blackfish" calls SeaWorld's massive expansion of its killer whale exhibit a desperation move.

"I see this is as an emergency release valve. Instead of changing their business model, they are doubling down on it," said Gabriela Cowperthwaite.

SeaWorld reports that the expansion, dubbed the Blue World Project, will double the size of its existing facility in San Diego. The new facility will be 50 feet deep, 350 feet long, have a surface area of nearly 1.5 acres and a total water volume of 10 million gallons, according to a news release.

SeaWorld didn't confirm the cost of the new habitat, although the Wall Street Journal reported that it would be "several hundred million dollars."

"I appreciate the fact that this corporation is willing to change and admit something is wrong for the first time, but this is a Band-Aid. They're not responding to the fact that orcas are not suitable for captivity. People in the know realize these bigger pools are going to be filled with more whales, and the amount of space for these whales to exist in will be the same or even less," said Cowperthwaite.

The new habitat is expected to be complete by 2018. It will be followed by similar such expansions at SeaWorld parks in San Antonio and Orlando.

SeaWorld says the expansion is not in response to the "Blackfish" controversy.

SeaWorld executives have adamantly denied animal abuse allegations, contending the orcas are "thriving" at the parks.

When asked about the comments on an increase in orcas resulting in less space for each orca, SeaWorld said, "There is no merit to those comments."

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