For the First Time in History, California Legislators Attempt to Ban the Captivity of Orca Whales

Legislative history research

One California legislator is trying to rewrite legislative history. Democrat Richard Bloom recently proposed new legislation that would ban the capitivity of orca whales at recreational parks like SeaWorld. “In their natural habitat, orcas are family-oriented, highly adaptable, socially complex with cultural traditions, and (are among) the most intelligent creatures on this planet. If we truly want to help orca conservation, we should focus our efforts on restoring habitat in the wild and protecting our oceans,” Bloom said in a statement.

Will California Make Legislative History?

In addition to banning orcas at SeaWorld and parks and aquariums like it, the bill would also prohibit “captive breeding and the import or export of killer whales, which despite their names are actually the largest of the dolphins,” according to The Los Angeles Times. Legislative research shows that the move is unprecedented. As of it stands, federal statutes and regulations protect whales in the wild and captive whales — but only up to a point. “There are federal laws governing the care, capture and research use of the killer whales,” CNN adds. (Current laws also forbid whaling and otherwise harming whales — including orcas and dolphins — in U.S. waters. Large ships and whale-watching boats cannot approach whales in the wild too closely.) Gabriela Cowperthwaite, director of the documentary Blackfish, joined Bloom for his announcement at a San Diego press conference. Blackfish documents the death of SeaWorld trainer Dawn Brancheau and some of the misinformation widely spread by ocean life parks.

Lawmakers Remain Politically Divided

Despite Bloom’s efforts to push through the new legal statute, politicians and high-ranking officials remain divided on the issue. One proponent for the captivity of orcas added his legislative counsel, stating that displaying the mammals at SeaWorld raises awareness — and encourages Americans to support efforts to conserve and rehabilitate them. Bloom maintains his opinion, adding: “We have realized that orcas are more complex than most other marine mammals and require more space, have a more complex social structure and most importantly need their family network (pod) for a happy and healthy life.”

Will lawmakers ban the display and captivity of orca whales? Legislative research shows that the bill — and push for change — is unprecedented, and outspoken legislators remain highly divided.

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