Captive Orca Breeding And Theatrical Shows Banned: California Gov. Jerry Brown Signs Bill Protecting Killer Whales

Breeding killer whales in captivity and using them for theatrical shows has been banned by the state of California. While the orcas currently in captivity won’t be released, they won’t perform for the public anymore.

California Governor Jerry Brown signed the bill into law on Tuesday that protects the orcas and prevents their captive breeding. According to the law, no institution or company will be allowed to continue their captive breeding program. Moreover, no establishments will be allowed to use the orcas for public performances with the intention to entertain. The law goes into effect next year, but it won’t help the orcas currently living in captivity. However, the companies will have to ensure adequate habitats for the creatures and keep them away from theatrical performances meant for human entertainment.

Under the new law, the killer whales, or orcas, already in captivity may remain in the state, but they can only be used for “educational presentations” starting in June of 2017, confirmed the law. Incidentally, the state law does have certain provisions for the capture of killer whales. The law mandates orcas can only be “rescued for rehabilitation or research purposes” if found stranded. However, if captured, these creatures can’t be used for any breeding programs. Moreover, none of the animals must be employed for entertainment or performance purposes.

The chances of an orca getting stranded are extremely remote, shared Naomi Rose, a marine mammal scientist at the nonprofit Animal Welfare Institute, which co-sponsored the legislation.

“This codifies this corporate policy in law, so they’re stuck now. And now we have more momentum to build on.

“I can count on one hand the number of times an orca has been stranded alive, was rescued, and survived in captivity.”

The state law was authored by California Assembly member Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica). The law does allow scientific and educational institutions to keep orcas in captivity. Moreover, the killer whales can be used for “educational presentations” only. There is no clarity as to what constitutes education presentations, but these creatures could make an appearance for students and research facility.

The law will significantly impact SeaWorld. The entertainment company has several orcas at its San Diego establishment. The company stated it doesn’t have any comment about the bill but added that it had already reformulated its policies. SeaWorld had previously confirmed that it has stopped its orca captive breeding program in March of this year. The SeaWorld facility currently holds 11 orcas in captivity.

Interestingly, SeaWorld has already rechristened their killer whale theatrical show and are now calling it “educational orca encounters,” which are set to begin next year. The organization is promoting the event as a “live documentary experience,” confirmed SeaWorld’s Director of Communications Dave Koontz.

“Guests will feel like they are taking part in a live documentary, with a modified habitat for a more natural looking setting.”

Animal rights activists aren’t entirely convinced or happy about the rules. Many experts insist the orcas in California will be safe only after they are no longer seen in concrete tanks. But SeaWorld isn’t releasing the 11 mammals it has in captivity. Fortunately, the law categorically prevents capturing any more killer whales and these 11 orcas are expected to the last to live in captivity.

South Carolina has laws that prohibit the public display of whales and dolphins without having any creatures in captivity. But other states, including Texas and Florida, may consider enacting similar laws. These states have marine parks with cetaceans. Rose hopes California’s laws could set a legal precedent.

“This is real, this is a state that has them. This is a real change in business as usual. It’s only a matter of when, not if, the use of animals in entertainment will become a relic of the past.”

[Featured Image by Valery Hache/Getty Images]

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