SACRAMENTO - A documentary claiming to expose the treatment of orcas and problems with trainer safety at SeaWorld has spurred action from a California state lawmaker.
Assemblyman Richard Bloom, D-Santa Monica. has proposed legislation seeking to ban the use of orcas for performance purposes at California aquatic theme parks as a result of details revealed in the movie "Blackfish."
The film, which has drawn global attention since its 2013 premiere, chronicles the 2010 death of SeaWorld trainer Dawn Brancheau, who was pulled into a pool and drowned by an orca at the chain's Orlando, Fla. park. SeaWorld has a park in San Diego.
According to a release from Bloom's office, the Orca Welfare and Safety Act (AB 2140) would eliminate performance-based entertainment and captive breeding of the whales with an ultimate goal of phasing out killer whale captivity in California.
"There is no justification for the continued captive display of orcas for entertainment purposes," Bloom declared in the release. " These beautiful creatures are much too large and far too intelligent to be confined in small, concrete tanks for their entire lives. It is time to end the practice of keeping orcas captive for human amusement."
Bloom added, "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."
Joining Bloom at Friday's press conference announcing the bill were Gabriela Cowperthwaite, Director of "Blackfish," Naomi Rose, Ph.D., Marine Mammal Scientist with the Animal Welfare Institute, and two former SeaWorld orca trainers, John Hargrove and Carol Ray.
In a written statement, SeaWorld spokesman David Koontz criticized Bloom for associating with "extreme animal rights activists, many of whom regularly campaign against SeaWorld and other accredited marine mammal parks and institutions."
"Included in the group are some of the same activists that partnered with PETA in bringing the meritless claim that animals in human care should be considered slaves under the 13th amendment of the US Constitution – a clear publicity stunt.," Koontz wrote. "This legislation appears to reflect the same sort of out-of-the-mainstream thinking. SeaWorld, one of the world's most respected zoological institutions, already operates under multiple federal, state and local animal welfare laws.
"We engage in business practices that are responsible, sustainable and reflective of the balanced values all Americans share," Koontz wrote.