SAN DIEGO (CN) – A California lawmaker has introduced another orca protection bill following SeaWorld’s announcement Thursday it has stopped breeding killer whales, but this time the proposed legislation has less teeth.
Assemblyman Richard Bloom, D-Santa Monica, announced he is “reintroducing” his bill to permanently ban captive orca breeding in the state. But AB 2305 – the California Orca Protection Act – does not stipulate orcas currently in captivity be moved to sea pens, as his previous effort had.
The bill only calls for the end of captive orca breeding in California and prohibits the import or export of new orcas into or out of the state. Orcas who already call the Golden State home would be allowed to be transferred between facilities throughout California.
Bloom announced his proposed legislation Thursday at a press conference at SeaWorld San Diego, following the theme park’s statement in a Los Angeles Times editorial that it would end captive breeding at its parks this year. The decision comes after SeaWorld experienced some of its lowest attendance numbers and its stocks plummeted from fallout after the documentary “Blackfish” was released in 2013.
The assemblyman was joined by SeaWorld San Diego Park president John Reilly, who said today’s announcement shows SeaWorld is “listening and we are changing.”
“We recognize that society’s attitudes about orcas in human care are changing, and Assembly member Bloom has been a vocal leader in that regard. We are working toward new ways to deliver on our purpose,” Reilly said.
Bloom’s announcement with SeaWorld is a far cry from when he first proposed the Orca Protection and Safety Act in 2014, garnering a swell of support from animal activists across the country. The bill was stalled during its first public hearing, when lawmakers called for a year-long study to be conducted.
Online petitions in support of the 2014 bill gained more than 1 million signatures, according to Bloom’s press release.
In December 2015, Bloom sent a letter to Reilly and SeaWorld CEO Joel Manby urging the company to voluntarily end captive orca breeding. His letter underscored the animal-welfare and business reasons for ending orca breeding.
“SeaWorld is unquestionably a significant economic driver in the markets where their parks are located,” Bloom said. “Their employees, shareholders, and surrounding businesses all rely on their financial sustainability. But they are also an international leader in rescuing and rehabilitating injured sea life and returning them to the wild. The importance of today’s announcement for all of these people cannot be underscored.”
Bloom’s spokesman Sean MacNeil said the reason for not including the stipulation that orcas be moved to sea pens in the latest bill was decided after “exhaustive research” on the issue found current science does not support moving forward with that requirement.
There are currently 11 orcas in captivity in California.
But Jared Goodman, director of animal law at People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, said Bloom’s concession on sea pens is not in alignment with what experts say.
“World-renowned orca experts agree orcas can be successfully transferred to sea pens, be rehabilitated and thrive,” Goodman said.
While Goodman said Bloom’s bill is “codyifying” what SeaWorld already announced they will do, getting the bill passed will hold the theme park legally accountable to make good on what he said was “a purely business decision.”
“They finally got to the end of the line and while SeaWorld said these will be the last orcas at the park, there’s nothing that legally binds them to that and this bill would. This is the first move that SeaWorld has made that will at least protect future orcas from living this life of depravation,” Goodman said.
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