Bill Would End SeaWorld Killer Whale Shows

A proposed California bill would force SeaWorld San Diego from using killer whales in its iconic shows and for releasing them from their tanks. This was after a documentary “Blackfish” criticized the animal welfare practices of the marine park.

The California state assembly had its first committee hearing on April 8 on AB2140 by Richard Bloom, D-Santa Monica. This hearing is pitted against animal welfare activists against a staple of the tourism industry of San Diego. Assemblyman Richard Bloom criticized the negative aspects of captive orcas at Sea World. The documentary has led to growing public outrage and many celebrities have already canceled appearances at the park.

If the Legislature approved Bloom’s bill and the governor signed it, the 10 killer whales of SeaWorld San Diego would be moved into a larger sea pen and could not be bred. This ban would also impose a ban on the import and export of the animals and many activists are now thinking of bringing bills of similar nature to Florida and Texas where SeaWorld has parks.

Naomi Rose, a marine mammal scientist with the Animal Welfare Institute, the bill’s sponsor, said they are too large, too intelligent, too socially complex and too far-ranging to be adequately cared for in captivity. Rose said the theme park can change how it handles captive animals and still display its whales for decades. She added we are not talking about shutting down SeaWorld but we are talking about transforming them.

John Reilly, president of SeaWorld San Diego Park, said the 2013 documentary “Blackfish” distorted the facts to favor an anti-captivity agenda. Reilly remarked that argument is not based on credible peer-reviewed science and went on to say that it is based on emotion and a propaganda film. Officials of SeaWorld have said their killer whales lead quality lives and that captive animals allow researchers to study and improve conservation for wild orcas. SeaWorld San Diego Park President Reilly said killer whales are a part of the experience of every San Diego Sea World visitor and the arks draw millions of visitors a year. Reilly added the film got wide distribution so we are not surprised that people were misled by the falsehoods and tricks in the movie and added we know that when they learn the facts, people support SeaWorld.

David Koontz, SeaWorld San Diego’s director of communications, while referring to the iconic animal of the park said Shamu (an orca) is synonymous with SeaWorld, and SeaWorld is synonymous with Shamu.

Attendance has dropped since the release of the documentary. Preliminary data released by SeaWorld revealed attendance has dropped to 3.05 million visitors so far this year, down about 500,000 from the same period in 2013. The documentary tells the story of an orca that killed a trainer at SeaWorld’s park in Orlando in 2010.

Animal rights activists converged on Sacramento for presenting petitions they said were signed by 1.2 million people worldwide against using killer whales in entertainment shows at amusement parks like SeaWorld. The advocacy group Sum of Us declared on its website urged followers to sign the petitions and said SeaWorld is already mounting a vicious campaign to defeat this assemblyman’s brave move.

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