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Ocean Explorer, Orca Encounter coming to SeaWorld in 2017

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Posted at 9:33 AM, Sep 27, 2016
and last updated 2016-09-27 14:39:03-04
SAN DIEGO -- As it looks to revamp its image following the fallout from the Blackfish documentary, SeaWorld released more details Tuesday on two new attractions will be coming to its San Diego park in 2017, all part of a $175 million capital investment at all three of its parks. 
 
The new attractions are Ocean Explorer and Orca Encounter. SeaWorldCares released new renderings of both today. 
 
Ocean Explorer will be a three-acre area that includes “multiple aquariums, exciting rides and digital technology.” 
 
Its major attraction will be Submarine Quest, which will allow guests to travel aboard mini submarines to view undersea animals. IT will have a several undersea research bases “housing specially-designed aquariums and interactive activities displaying unique as well as elusive ocean animals like giant octopuses, huge spider crabs and dozens of moray eels.”
 
The Orca Encounter program will focus on “natural orca encounters,” as opposed to “theatrical shows.”
 
“The new Orca Encounter will be based on killer whale behavior in the wild: what they eat, how they hunt, how they navigate and how they communicate, helping guests gain a deeper appreciation and respect for the orcas,” SeaWorld said. 
 
In October of last year, the California Coastal Commission approved a $100 million expansion of the tanks SeaWorld uses to hold killer whales in San Diego — but it banned breeding of the captive orcas that would live in them, including through artificial insemination. It also prohibited the sale, trade or transfer of captive orcas.
 
In March, SeaWorld agreed to end its killer whale breeding program. 
 
Earlier this month, California Governor Jerry Brown reaffirmed the CCC decision by signing the California Orca Protection Act, which bans the breeding of orcas in captivity and their use in shows for entertainment. It does not apply to scientific and educational institutions that have orcas for rehabilitation and research. The law goes into effect in June 2017.
 
Criticism over keeping killer whales in captivity increased in 2010 after a killer whale named Tilikum grabbed trainer Dawn Brancheau after a "Dine with Shamu" show in SeaWorld Orlando and pulled her into the pool, killing her. The death was highlighted in Blackfish. Tilikum, who was also involved in the deaths of two others, has been at SeaWorld Orlando for 23 years.
 
Park attendance dropped after the release of Blackfish in 2013.
 
In February, SeaWorld acknowledged sending workers to infiltrate the animal rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. At the time, SeaWorld President Joel Manby said the employees had been sent to PETA to protect the safety of its employees and customers, but he vowed to end the practice.