CALIFORNIA – As announced on Friday at a press conference, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) will introduce a bill to eliminate the display of whales for human entertainment in the United States. If approved, this legislation would eradicate the breeding of captive orcas, the capture of wild orcas and will put an end to the import and export of the marine mammals, meaning that their public exhibition would no longer exist after the current generation.

Rep. Schiff intends to amend The Orca Responsibility and Care Advancement (Orca) Act, which was released in 1972 with the purpose of granting that the current generation of killer whales would be the last to live in captivity. The act states that they belong to the wild, as they are “too socially complex, too intelligent, too long-lived and simply too big to thrive in confinement.”

Two killer whales jump above the sea surface, off the south side of Unimak Island, eastern Aleutian Islands, Alaska. Credit: NOAA

“The evidence is very strong that the psychological and physical harm done to these magnificent animals far outweighs any benefits reaped from their display,” The congressman said in a statement, as he pointed out the training practices done at SeaWorld theme parks.

Sea World

SeaWorld has 24 orcas in four parks across the United States. Only in San Diego they have 11 whales who range in age from 10 months to 50 years. As a response to Schiff’s announcement, Jill Kermes, a spokesman for SeaWorld Entertainment affirmed that “through our work with scientists, conservation leaders and the government, SeaWorld is ensuring that all animals in human care are treated with the dignity and respect they require and deserve”. The killer whales shows constitute the company’s main attraction.

As further opposition to Schiff’s proposal, the Alliance of Marine Mammal Parks and Aquariums argued that whale shows facilitated development of relevant research and also lead to increased public acknowledgement of the marine mammals. “Each generation can benefit from the opportunity to see these animals in person,” declared Kathleen Dezio, the group executive director.

The existing population of killer whales in captivity come from wild capture or from captive breeding programs. However, orcas have not been captured in U.S. waters since 1976 and imports have not occurred since 2001, which means that captive breeding programs have been increasing.

According to Naomi Rose, a marine mammal scientist for the Animal Welfare Institute, captive whales are breeding with close family members and this fact is unhealthy and harmful to them. In addition, she said that the Orca Act would encourage SeaWorld to develop a long-term contraceptive for whales.

Source: Los Angeles Times