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:
Photo credit: Shutterstock.com