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California Lawmaker to Propose Ban on Orcas in Captivity

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The current article you are reading does not reflect the views of the current editors and contributors of the new Ecorazzi

SeaWorld in San Diego must be feeling some ripples in their waters. Their worst nightmare (but the greatest victory for their imprisoned animals) may be coming true. A lawmaker in California is set to propose a ban on orcas in captivity.

State Assemblymember Richard Bloom, D–Santa Monica, will introduce the Orca Welfare and Safety Act today. The bill would make it illegal to “hold in captivity, or use, a wild-caught or captive-bred orca for performance or entertainment purposes.” The bill would also ban artificial insemination of captive orcas in California and block the import of orcas and orca semen from other states. Violators would face a fine up to $100,000 and/or six months in a county jail.

“There is no justification for the continued captive display of orcas for entertainment purposes,” said Bloom in a written statement. “These beautiful creatures are much too large and far too intelligent to be confined in small, concrete pens for their entire lives. It is time to end the practice of keeping orcas captive for human amusement.”

Bloom also stated that the law will be “the most comprehensive protection law for captive orcas in the United States in over 40 years.”

If the bill goes into effect, all 10 captive orcas at SeaWorld San Diego would have to be rehabilitated and returned to the wild “where possible.” If it’s not possible, then the whales must be “transferred and held in a sea pen that is open to the public and not used for performance or entertainment purposes.”

Exemptions to this law are orcas being rehabilitated after a rescue or stranding, or for research facilities, but those orcas still must be released to the sea or to a sea pen.

Dr. Naomi Rose, marine mammal scientist at the Animal Welfare Institute, said that the bill was greatly inspired by “Blackfish,” the groundbreaking documentary about orcas in captivity.

“The Blackfish effect has never been in greater evidence—everything has led to this, the first serious legislative proposal to prohibit the captive display of this highly intelligent and social species,” Rose wrote in an email. “SeaWorld should join with this effort rather than continue to fight it. They can be on the right side of history.”

While Dr. Rose and Blackfish filmmaker, Gabriela Cowperthwaite, both volunteered their time and expertise to the bill, they were not the ones who initiated it. Bloom contacted both of them for their input. “… Once they reached out to us, we dove in wholeheartedly and assisted in every way we could—helping with the bill language, information, and fact-gathering, and getting support from various sectors of the public, including the scientific community,” said Rose.

We’ll be on the edge of our seats – and orcas on their edges of their tanks – waiting to hear the good news of this bill passing.

Related on Ecorazzi:

+Heart to Raise Money for Orcas at Earth Day Event

+SeaWorld to Install Exercise Machines for Captive Orcas

+Bikers Want Freedom 4 Orcas

Photo credit: Shutterstock.com


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  • J Shampton

    Why should an orca be treated any differently than any other animal? Either it’s ok to keep animals as pets or to display them for entertainment, or it isn’t.

    Oh, in case you’re wondering: Yes, it’s ok.

    • snizzle

      Disagree, Orca are intelligent animals (relative to the rest of the animal kingdom) and it seems pretty cruel to keep something that is proven to have emotions in a state of unhappiness its whole life.

    • Natalie Lenka

      Keeping a domesticated animal as a pet is dramatically different than putting a wild animal in a tank when it travels 100 miles a day in the wild. My dogs go on trips to the beach, doggy bars and even to dog friends houses. They enjoy nature and see the world. I also don’t force them to perform to be fed. Orcas and dolphins see the sides of a tank and will stay there until they die.

      It’s like saying all parenting is equal. There are ways of cohabiting with animals and then there is exploiting them for profit. Different.

    • DJ

      Your response to this article shows just how ignorant and uninformed you are. It people like you that make this world a shitty place. Orcas have highly developed emotions, and highly developed social connections. Which is the reason their fins slump over in captivity, because they become severely depressed. You will rarely ever see a wild orca with a slumped fin. Think about being trapped in a tiny cell, with no light, by yourself, for your entire life. You only get out a couple times a day to be forced to do tricks for food. Then back into the dark cell you go. That’s the life orcas in captivity live. It’s amazing doing this is still even legal at all.

    • TaargusTaargus

      This is such a dumb argument. To suggest that my Jack Russel Terrier would be better off in the wild than with me under the covers at night (his choosing) shows your complete lack of knowledge when it comes to wild animals versus domesticated animals.

      Huskies hate pulling sleds. German Shepherds hate guarding flocks and helping soldiers. My terrier hates digging holes in my yard to kill (gasp!) gophers and mice.

    • Mary Ann Holliday

      Some animals can be kept as pets IF they are treated right and not abused! Ever hear of dog fights?? Cock fights??? But a wild animal is a wild animal and should not be kept caged up just so profit can be made by displaying them for all to see!

  • Frank Wolf

    Yes, yes and yes! It’s way past time to end this captivity-for- profit insult.
    With the recent murder of Marius the giraffe perhaps this has been a wake-up call for the intelligent members of the human race to finally realize the wrong we do to other life on earth. I hope ending orca captivity is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg when it comes to capturing animals for public profiteering.
    Same for laboratory animals too…you want a new this or that, especially if you intend on making a profit from your animal experiments, then experiment on yourself!

  • smartgirl

    A HUGE step in the right direction… please let this pass!!!!

  • ericmills

    A good first step, assuredly. Kudos to Assemblymember Bloom (who also carried the bobcat protection bill last year). But shouldn’t this legislation apply to ALL captive dolphins? Orcas are only the largest member of the dolphin family. NONE of these animals belong in captivity. And certainly not for our mere “entertainment.”

    AB 2140 (Bloom) is likely to be assigned to the Assembly Water, Parks & Wildlife Committee, for a hearing possibly in late March. The committee is chaired by Assemblymember Anthony Rendon (who carried the recent lead ammo ban legislation). Other committee members are Frank Bigelow, Travis Allen, Raul Bocanegra, Brian Dahle, Paul Fong, Jim Frazier, Beth Gaines, Mike Gatto, Jimmy Gomez, Lorena Gonzalez, Adam Gray, Jim Patterson, Freddie Rodriguez, and Mariko Yamada.

    Support letters needed NOW!

    ALL LEGISLATORS MAY BE WRITTEN C/O THE STATE CAPITOL, SACRAMENTO, CA 95814. And send Assemblymember Richard Bloom a thank-you note, too.

    Eric Mills, coordinator

  • Andrew

    Amanda, this article is awesome. I really hope some action comes of this. I’m glad this is getting some attention as well. Keep writing about the stuff that needs to be heard in the world!

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