New Law Could End SeaWorld’s Killer Whale Shows

The conditions in the documentary Blackfish could soon be a thing of the past if a new bill to end killer whale captivity becomes law.

The bill, proposed by Southern Californian lawmaker Adam Schiff, D-Burbank, would gradually phase out public displays of orcas for entertainment. It would also prohibit the breeding of captive orcas, end their capture in the wild, and stop the import and export of the animals.

The new law would effectively end SeaWorld’s killer whale shows after the existing animals die, according to the San Diego Union Tribune.

“The evidence is very strong that the psychological and physical harm done to these magnificent animals far outweighs any benefits reaped from their display.”

New bill could outlaw keeping captive killer whales

SeaWorld Inc. currently has 24 killer whales in three parks across the country, and a separate company, Miami Seaquarium, has one. A SeaWorld spokesman told the Los Angeles Times the park doesn’t mistreat or abuse its whales.

“Through our work with scientists, conservation leaders, and the government, SeaWorld is ensuring that all animals in human care are treated with the dignity and respect they require and deserve.”

SeaWorld came under fire for keeping captive killer whales following the 2010 death of orca trainer Dawn Brancheau, who drowned after being pulled into a pool in SeaWorld Orlando.

The park became the subject of a documentary titled Blackfish that told the story of Tilikum, a captured killer whale that was involved in the death of three trainers.

The film highlighted the stressful living conditions captured orcas must endure, including the small living spaces and harassment by other whales.

The documentary portrayed the captive life of a killer whale in a negative light and outraged animal activists around the world. Park attendance dropped significantly after the documentary’s release even though the company denied any wrongdoing.

Animal rights activists have condemned the park for keeping captive killer whales saying the animals are too intelligent and too big to be kept for their whole lives in concrete and glass enclosures.

SeaWorld was also cited and fined four times in May for safety violations amid allegations it didn’t do enough to protect its killer whale trainers in San Diego. The citations accuse the park of not educating their trainers on the dangers of working with dangerous orcas.

The park responded to the allegations saying it has already taken steps to improve the safety environment of its trainers with fast moving floors that could be used to separate trainers from orcas.

Proposed bill could prohibit keeping killer whales

In response to the negative publicity and consumer backlash SeaWorld announced plans to spend $100 million to expand its killer whale enclosure in San Diego, according to CBS Los Angeles.

“Through conservation work, rescue efforts and significant contributions towards advancing scientific understanding of orcas and other marine mammals, SeaWorld is a leader in protecting and preserving these species.”

SeaWorld officials have said the only way to stop the killer whales from breeding is to separate males and females, which would include separating siblings from each other.

Current federal law allows permits to be issued for capturing and importing wild killer whales to be used in public entertainment displays, although no wild orcas have been captured since 1976 and none have been imported since 2001.

The Orca Responsibility and Care Advancement Act, however, would mandate parks phase out the keeping and showing of orcas for entertainment purposes.

A similar bill was proposed last year, but was defeated by tourist and industry groups.

[Photo by Mike Aguilera/SeaWorld San Diego via Getty Images]

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