Quantcast

California Bill Seeks to Ban Orcas in Captivity at Marine Parks

By Mark J. Palmer

A new bill has just been introduced in California that would phase out orca captivity in the state. Assembly Bill 2140, introduced by assembly member Richard Bloom last week, seeks a ban on keeping killer whales in captivity for human entertainment and retire all captive orcas to sea pens.

An orca performs a flip during a "Shamu—Believe" show at Seaworld, San Diego. Despite growing evidence, Sea World rejects claims that forcing killer whales to perform is dangerous to both orcas and trainers. Photo credit:
Jesse Means/ Flickr

While the proposed legislation, dubbed the Orca Welfare and Safety Act, doesn’t specifically name SeaWorld, the marine park’s San Diego facility is the only one in the state that currently has 10 captive orcas that are used in performances. The company has, unsurprisingly, reacted harshly to the proposal.

The draft bill is quite comprehensive and would:

  • Prohibit holding or use of a wild-caught or captive-bred orca for performances or entertainment purposes. (which are defined as any exhibition associated with music or other sound effects, choreographed display, or training for such display, or unprotected contact between humans and orcas. This applies to trainers, too, except for veterinary care.)
  • Prohibit import or capture in state waters of any orcas for entertainment purposes.
  • Prohibit breeding or impregnating captive orcas.
  • Prohibit import and collection of any sperm, gametes or embryos for artificial insemination.

These provisions would not apply to any orca held for rehabilitation or stranding, or for research purposes. However, any orcas held for rehabilitation or research would have to be released eventually or kept in a sea pen. Similarly, orcas held for entertainment purposes would be retired to a sea pen and released if possible. Until an appropriate sea pen is available for retirement, orcas could be held for exhibition only in existing tanks.

“There is no justification for the continued captive display of orcas for entertainment purposes," said Bloom (D-Santa Monic) said in a statement. “These beautiful creatures are much too large and far too intelligent to be confined in small, concrete tanks for their entire lives.” 

Bloom was accompanied by Blackfish director Gabriella Cowperthwaite and two former orca trainers at a press conference announcing the bill at the Santa Monica pier on Friday. The lawmaker said the harrowing documentary, that reveals the dangers to orcas and their trainers at SeaWorld, was what inspired him to take action.

SeaWorld objected strenuously to the proposed legislation, attacking the messenger: according to a CNN report, SeaWorld spokesperson Becca Bides claimed that the participants joining Bloom were well-known "extreme animal rights activists, many of whom regularly campaign against SeaWorld and other accredited marine mammal parks and institutions."

The company rejects the claims in Blackfish about dangers to orcas and trainers. However, most of the claims in Blackfish come from former SeaWorld trainers themselves.

As this Wired article notes: “Bloom’s proposed law isn’t the first of its kind: South Carolina banned the public display of dolphins in 1992, as did Maui County, HI, in 2002. In February of this year, New York state senator Greg Ball introduced a bill that would ban orca confinement in sea parks and aquariums.” Clearly, public awareness about this issue is growing.

Earth Island’s International Marine Mammal Project has endorsed the legislation and will work to see it passed by the California legislature. It should prove to be an interesting fight over the ethics of keeping intelligent orcas in captivity.

What You Can Do:

If you live in California, you can contact your own assemblymember and state senator, urging them to support the Orca Welfare and Safety Act. They can sign on as co-sponsors, and of course can vote in favor of the bill when it comes to them. Find your legislator here.

You can also contact Assemblymember Richard Bloom and express your support: 

Assemblymember Richard Bloom


State Capitol 
P.O. Box 942849


Sacramento, CA 94249-0050

Fax: (916) 319-2150

Click here to send an email

 Visit EcoWatch’s BIODIVERSITY page for more related news on this topic.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

An aerial view of a neighborhood destroyed by the Camp Fire on Nov. 15, 2018 in Paradise, Calif. Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

Respecting scientists has never been a priority for the Trump Administration. Now, a new investigation from The Guardian revealed that Department of the Interior political appointees sought to play up carbon emissions from California's wildfires while hiding emissions from fossil fuels as a way to encourage more logging in the national forests controlled by the Interior department.

Read More
Slowing deforestation, planting more trees, and cutting emissions of non-carbon dioxide greenhouse gases like methane could cut another 0.5 degrees C or more off global warming by 2100. South_agency / E+ / Getty Images

By Dana Nuccitelli

Killer hurricanes, devastating wildfires, melting glaciers, and sunny-day flooding in more and more coastal areas around the world have birthed a fatalistic view cleverly dubbed by Mary Annaïse Heglar of the Natural Resources Defense Council as "de-nihilism." One manifestation: An increasing number of people appear to have grown doubtful about the possibility of staving-off climate disaster. However, a new interactive tool from a climate think tank and MIT Sloan shows that humanity could still meet the goals of the Paris agreement and limit global warming.

Read More
Sponsored
A baby burrowing owl perched outside its burrow on Marco Island, Florida. LagunaticPhoto / iStock / Getty Images Plus

Burrowing owls, which make their homes in small holes in the ground, are having a rough time in Florida. That's why Marco Island on the Gulf Coast passed a resolution to pay residents $250 to start an owl burrow in their front yard, as the Marco Eagle reported.

Read More
Amazon and other tech employees participate in the Global Climate Strike on Sept. 20, 2019 in Seattle, Washington. Amazon Employees for Climate Justice continue to protest today. Karen Ducey / Getty Images

Hundreds of Amazon workers publicly criticized the company's climate policies Sunday, showing open defiance of the company following its threats earlier this month to fire workers who speak out on climate change.

Read More
Locusts swarm from ground vegetation as people approach at Lerata village, near Archers Post in Samburu county, approximately 186 miles north of Nairobi, Kenya on Jan. 22. "Ravenous swarms" of desert locusts in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia threaten to ravage the entire East Africa subregion, the UN warned on Jan. 20. TONY KARUMBA / AFP / Getty Images

East Africa is facing its worst locust infestation in decades, and the climate crisis is partly to blame.

Read More