“SeaWorld confines whales and dolphins…to tanks that, to them, are the size of a bathtub.”
This is a statement that is widely used by anti-captivity activists, but it’s often dismissed as an over-exaggeration by captivity supporters. An average person would take up the entire space of a bathtub, and it’s quite obvious that Shamu does not take up the entire space of his tank. Even though the tanks may not be the equivalent of a bathtub, are they still small enough to render an equally as disturbing analogy?
The centerpiece of SeaWorld’s stadiums are the huge, elaborate show pools. Because the pools appear so large to the average human, visitors may conclude that these enclosures are adequate for the animals that they house. To further promote this idea, SeaWorld uses clever rhetoric, boasting that their tanks are as large as “three Olympic-sized swimming pools” and “contain 2.5 million gallons of water.” The numbers are meant to impress the guest and make the stadium seem larger than it truly is.
The largest SeaWorld tanks are located at SeaWorld San Antonio. There is about 41,000 square feet -8,200 square feet per whale- of surface area throughout the entire stadium. 8,200 square feet may seem impressive, but not so to a six ton orca whale! For a human, this would be like living in a small house while spending the majority of your time locked in the living room with no opportunity to leave. In fact, SeaWorld CEO Stephen Schwarzman allows himself more than twice as much living space as a whale at Shamu Stadium. Schwarzman has a 20,000 square foot apartment, and he gets to leave whenever he chooses!
This, of course, is the closest we can get to understanding what SeaWorld is like from the perspective of the orcas who live there. Since orcas are so much more free-ranging than humans, the small space must be even more uncomfortable for them than it would be for us. Also, keep in mind that these numbers apply to the largest SeaWorld tanks, which house the least amount of whales. The crowded tanks at San Diego and the small tanks at Orlando would result in even less space for the individual whales. This grants us a new, and more accurate picture of what life is like in the limited spaces of Shamu Stadium.