It has been announced early Tuesday that the bill seeking to free orcas and ban shows from taking place at SeaWorld involving them has been put on hold, delayed until next year in California. The bill, entitled Assembly Bill 2140, is written by Democrat Richard Bloom of Santa Monica, California.
Bloom had proposed the bill just last month. Today, the members of the Water, Parks and Wildlife Committee were greeted with a hearing room packed full of people, both supporting and opposing. Even more were packed ouside, watching the action inside the hearing room on monitors. After hearing testimony from all parties concerned including opponents and supporters of the bill including SeaWorld trainers, the committee has decided to delay the bill until mid-2015. Members of the committee have stated that they want more time to study the matter, and it is expected to take several more months.
Bloom was inspired by the documentary released in 2013 known as Blackfish. The film looked at SeaWorld’s infamous bull Orca called Tilikum, the whale known for being aggressive, having killed three people, including Dawn Brancheau, a top killer whale trainer. Brancheau was killed in 2010 at the Orlando location of SeaWorld when Tilikum pulled her underwater. The makers of the documentary argued that keeping orcas in captivity and mistreating them leads to aggressiveness, and eventually leads to attack on their trainers.
1.2 million people were outraged by the documentary which aired on CNN and at the Sundance Film Festival, and signed a petition supporting the bill. Representatives of the Animal Welfare Institute and others presented the petition in Sacramento the day before the hearing about the bill.
If not delayed, the California Bill 2140 would have banned the use of orcas for importing, exporting and breeding in the state. It would have also stopped the whales from being used for entertainment shows and required SeaWorld to set them free into the wild. If that had proved to be not possible and there was not another option, then the bill states that orcas would then have be transferred to an ocean enclosure.
SeaWorld has not delayed voicing their responses about the controversial matter involving the ban of their orcas in California. Scott Wetch, a lobbyist for SeaWorld Entertainment Inc., has stated that the company will seek restitution if the bill is enacted. Wetch also warned that SeaWorld would view the ban on whales as the taking of its property and would sue for large amounts of money.
The San Diego location of SeaWorld has 10 different orcas. Four were caught in the wild and six were born while in captivity. The company has 4,500 employees during tourist season and has stated the controversy surrounding their parks has not hurt the sales in attendance. Regardless, they have taken measures against the bill. They have spoken out, criticizing Blackfish on Twitter and set up a website against it.
John Reilly, president of SeaWorld San Diego in California, has said that the facts and science have proved justification behind the bill is absent. “We applaud the committee in deciding to delay the California orca ban and making the decision to learn more about it before anything else happens,” Reilly said.
By Jessica Cooley