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KUSA – SeaWorld has been surrounded by controversy since the release of the documentary Blackfish. Animal rights activists have been leading a charge against SeaWorld for their reported treatment of their animals, especially their star attraction, the killer whales.

SeaWorld just reported a loss in attendance, due in part to the protests and treatments of the orcas.

In response, SeaWorld has announced their new plan to fund research and conservation projects.

SeaWorld is pledging $10 million to killer whale research and joining in a partnership focused on ocean health.

The "Blue World Project" will build a new environment for the orcas. The project will expand the whale's environment to a total water volume of 10 million gallons. The depth of the tank will reach up to 50 feet and will span over 350 feet in length.

In addition to expanding the tank, SeaWorld will be installing fast water currents. These currents will simulate the mental and physical sensations of swimming in the oceans.

For guests, the new project will include two new views of the orcas in action: A bird's eye view and an over 40 foot high see-through panel.

"Through up-close and personal encounters, the new environment will transform how visitors experience killer whales," SeaWorld CEO Jim Atchison said. "Our guests will be able to walk alongside the whales as if they were at the shore, watch them interact at the depths found in the ocean, or a birds-eye view from above."

The new environment is expected to open at SeaWorld San Diego in 2018.

More on the project can be read at http://blueworldproject.seaworld.com/.

(KUSA-TV © 2014 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)

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