Congressman Plans To Introduce Legislation Banning Captivity Of Killer Whales
In what could be another major blow to SeaWorld San Diego, a Los Angeles-area congressman announced Friday he plans to introduce federal legislation that would ban the captivity of orcas.
"The evidence is very strong that the psychological and physical harm done to these magnificent animals far outweighs any benefits reaped from their display," said Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Burbank. "We cannot be responsible stewards of our natural environment and propagate messages about the importance of animal welfare when our behaviors do not reflect our principles."
Schiff said his proposed Orca Responsibility and Care Advancement (ORCA) Act would phase out the captivity of orcas, so no future generations of killer whales can be kept on display.
The legislation would effectively end the famed Shamu killer whale shows at SeaWorld parks in San Diego and around the country.
Jill Kermes, senior corporate affairs officers for SeaWorld Entertainment, said the proposed legislation is misguided, saying SeaWorld and other science-based groups "are part of the solution, not the problem."
"Killer whales at SeaWorld are healthy and thriving and through conservation and rescue efforts as well as significant work to advance the scientific understanding of orcas and other marine mammals, SeaWorld is a leader in protecting and preserving these species," Kermes said.
"We have not captured a whale in the wild in 35 years — and we will not do so," Kermes said. "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 San Diego theme park already took a hit last month when the California Coastal Commission approved an expansion of its killer whale exhibit but ordered an end to the breeding of captive orcas at the park. That ban would also eventually phase out the Shamu exhibit.
SeaWorld plans to challenging the commission's ruling.
SeaWorld has suffered dipping attendance since the release of the documentary film "Blackfish," which focused on the treatment of orcas at the park.
On Monday, SeaWorld Entertainment CEO Joel Manby is expected to announce plans for a new attraction designed to boost attendance — possibly using some of the $100 million the park planned to spend on the expanded orca tanks.