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Humpback whale. Image: Christopher Swann

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Help us support an end to orca captivity in the State of California!

A progressive and bold new bill recently introduced into the California Legislature by Assembly member Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica) may be the beginning of the end to orca captivity in the state forever. The proposed bill, entitled the California Captive Orca Welfare and Trainer Safety Act (AB 2140), does a number of things that will incrementally phase out orca captivity within California, while foreseeably having a knock-on effect for captivity worldwide.

The proposed measure will prohibit the confinement of wild-caught or captive-bred orcas for performance or entertainment purposes. It will also prevent the capture of orcas in state waters, or import from another state. Captive breeding will also be prohibited under the bill, including a ban on the collection, export or import of semen for artificial insemination.

In addition, the bill calls for the rehabilitation and return of orcas currently held for performance purposes wherever possible, and permanent retirement to sea pens for those that cannot. The bill exempts the holding of orcas for rescue or research purposes, but mandates rehabilitation and return to the wild where possible and using best available science. Violations of the bill’s provisions, if it becomes law, will result in fines of up to US$100,000 and up to six months in a county jail.

Even before the release of documentary Blackfish, public awareness and scrutiny of whale and dolphin captivity escalated with the death of trainers Alexis Martinez and Dawn Brancheau, both killed within a few months of each other by orcas held by SeaWorld; a U.S. Congressional hearing reviewing the educational value of public display; the release of the book Death at SeaWorld which details the history and consequences of holding orcas in captivity; and an ongoing court battle between the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and SeaWorld for safety violations at its Orlando location where Ms. Brancheau was killed.

A legislative hearing will occur on April 8th in the Water, Parks and Wildlife Committee of the California Assembly. Please contact the Committee by April 7th requesting that they vote ‘yes’ for the passage of the bill as written so that it can move to the California Senate for review and signature into law by the Governor.

Help us support this positive first step for a permanent end to orcas in captivity. The Committee prefers hard copy letters, so please fax a letter to the legislative committee at 916-319-2196. They especially need to hear from our supporters in the United States!

A sample letter is provided below:

The Honorable Anthony Rendon, Chair
Assembly Water, Parks & Wildlife Committee
1020 N. Street, Suite 160
Sacramento, CA 95814

Dear Assembly Member Rendon:

I am writing to you today to seek your support for AB 2140, The California Captive Orca Welfare and Trainer Safety Act. This bill proposes an incremental and rational approach to phasing out the continuing captivity of orcas in California for entertainment purposes. The bill will also prevent the further captive breeding of orcas, and provide for their humane and long term retirement into sanctuary settings in order to better provide for their physical and psychological requirements in more natural environments.

The death of SeaWorld trainer Dawn Brancheau in 2010 launched a series of events that have brought the continuing confinement of these majestic beings into question. Public opinion confirms that the practice of consigning orcas to a lifetime of confinement for our entertainment is outdated and offensive to our moral sensibilities. In addition, scientific research tells us that captivity can never meet the physical and psychological needs of orcas, and is therefore unsuitable and inappropriate for these highly intelligent, mobile, and social animals.

Sponsored by a respected lawmaker and distinguished marine mammal scientists, the proposed bill has garnered worldwide support and provides a balanced and sensible way forward to gradually phase out this archaic practice. I write to respectfully request that you vote ‘yes’ to AB 2140, and encourage your Committee to do the same by passing it without amendment to the Senate for review and eventual signature into law by the Governor.

Sincerely,

Orcas in captivity infographic

About George Berry

George is a member of WDC's Communications team and website coordinator.