Bill would phase out orca captivity in California
SANTA MONICA – Assemblymember Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica) today announced that he has introduced legislation that seeks to phase out killer whale, or orca, captivity in California. The bill, AB 2140, named the Orca Welfare and Safety Act, will end performance-based entertainment and captive breeding programs in California. The changes sought by the legislation would be the most comprehensive protections laws for orcas in captivity in the United States in over 40 years.
Joining Assemblymember Bloom at the press conference were Gabriela Cowperthwaite, Director of Blackfish, the critically acclaimed documentary on orca captivity, Naomi Rose, Ph.D., Marine Mammal Scientist with the Animal Welfare Institute, and two former SeaWorld orca trainers, John Hargrove and Carol Ray.
"There is no justification for the continued captive display of orcas for entertainment purposes. These beautiful creatures are much too large and far too intelligent to be confined in small, concrete tanks for their entire lives," said Bloom. "It is time to end the practice of keeping orcas captive for human amusement."
For years, the scientific community has raised serious concerns about having orcas in captivity. However, after the tragic death of a SeaWorld trainer in Florida and another trainer at a theme park in Spain, the public has begun to question the moral justification for keeping orcas in captivity.
After humans, killer whales are thought to be the most socially and ecologically complex species on the planet. Scientists studying killer whales in the wild have documented the close social bonds these animals share. In fact orcas stay with their mothers their entire lives and their life trajectories are similar, in many ways, to humans. For example, orcas nurse for up to two years, reach sexual maturity around fourteen years, males reach social maturity around 20 years of age, females go through menopause between 40-45 years of age, males live between 60-70 years, and females between 80-90 years.
As top predators, their cooperative hunting techniques and unique vocalizations demonstrate highly evolved learned behavior, what many call culture. Yet captive orcas are almost solely used for performing or breeding to maintain stocks at amusement parks. They are separated from their offspring, live in pods that are artificial and made up of unrelated individuals, and live their entire lives in concrete tanks that are only a fraction of the size of their natural habitat.
"In their natural habitat orcas are family-oriented, highly adaptable, socially-complex with cultural traditions and trail only humans as the most intelligent creatures on this planet. However, in captivity, they have shorter lifespans, show increased health problems, live in swimming pool sized habitat that are approximately one ten-thousandth the required size and demonstrate aggressive behavior towards one another and towards humans that has never been documented in the wild. They simply do not belong in captivity," said Bloom.
Furthermore, many scientists agree that captive display of orcas has limited or no conservation benefit for orcas in the wild. Captive breeding techniques have had limited success and application.
"If we truly want to help orca conservation, we should focus our efforts on restoring habitat in the wild and protecting our oceans," added Bloom.
Richard Bloom chairs the Assembly Budget Subcommittee on Natural Resources and Transportation. He represents California's 50th Assembly District, which comprises the communities of Agoura Hills, Bel Air, Beverly Hills, Brentwood, Hollywood, Malibu, Pacifica Palisades, Santa Monica, Topanga, West Hollywood, and West Los Angeles. He is a former California Coastal Commissioner, former Chair of the Santa Monica Bay Restoration Commission and former Mayor of Santa Monica, California.