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What California's Orca Bill Would Mean For San Diego's SeaWorld

What California's Orca Bill Would Mean For San Diego's SeaWorld
What California's Orca Bill Would Mean For San Diego's SeaWorld
GUESTS:Naomi Rose, Ph.D., Marine Mammal Scientist, Animal Welfare Institute Miro Copic, SDSU Marketing Professor

SeaWorld San Diego Q&A
SeaWorld answers KBPS questions regarding its breeding program in light of newly proposed legislation aimed at stopping breeding and performances by orcas in the state of California.
AB 2140 'Blackfish' Bill
A California lawmaker is introducing legislation that would ban SeaWorld from using orcas in its San Diego shows.
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A state lawmaker is introducing legislation that would ban SeaWorld from using orcas in its San Diego shows.

Assemblyman Richard Bloom, D-Santa Monica, said he was being driven by allegations of animal abuse made in the disputed documentary "Blackfish."

"There is no justification for the continued captive display of orcas for entertainment purposes," Bloom said in remarks prepared for the bill's release Friday. "These beautiful creatures are much too large and far too intelligent to be confined in small, concrete tanks for their entire lives."


SeaWorld executives have adamantly denied animal abuse allegations, along with accusations that they do not do enough to protect the trainers who work with killer whales, which can live up to 80 years, grow to 32 feet in length and weigh up to six tons.

SeaWorld San Diego released a statement that called the attendees scheduled to appear alongside Bloom at a late-morning news conference "well-known extreme animal rights activists, many of whom regularly campaign against SeaWorld and other accredited marine mammal parks and institutions."

Some in the group have suggested animals in human care should be considered slaves under the 13th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, according to the theme park's statement.

SeaWorld officials said the planned legislation "appears to reflect the same sort of out-of-the-mainstream thinking."

They noted that SeaWorld already operates under multiple federal, state and local animal welfare laws, and "engage(s) in business practices that are responsible, sustainable and reflective of the balanced values all Americans share."

"Blackfish" explores the 2010 death of trainer at SeaWorld Orlando who was drowned by an orca. Since Dawn Brancheau's death, trainers have not been allowed back into the water with the orcas.

Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez said on Facebook she's been concerned about what goes on at the park for several years since her days working with labor.

"This bill isn't about closing or banning Sea World, just one of their shows," Gonzalez wrote on Facebook.

In an open letter, SeaWorld accused Blackfish filmmakers of using emotionally manipulative sequences and relying on animal rights activists masquerading as scientists and former SeaWorld employees with little experience working with killer whales.

Bloom's proposal has three central objectives, according to U-T San Diego: end the use of performing orcas in theme shows, ban captive breeding and prohibit the import and export of the so-called killer whales. It does not seek to prevent SeaWorld from maintaining an orca exhibit so long as it is done in more of an aquarium-like setting.

David Perle, of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, said it was time to recognize that orcas and dolphins are held captive at SeaWorld and do not belong there.

"Their containment in pitiful swimming pools instead of great oceans and in isolation instead of pods condemns our own race's greed and obliviousness," Perle said. "At SeaWorld and other animal abusement parks, these once-magnificent beings are separated from their families -- including babies who are torn from their mothers' sides -- and can swim only in endless circles between concrete walls, the constant stress of confinement driving them to lash out violently in frustration at each other and their human captors."

He said PETA and its supporters want SeaWorld to retire the orcas to a seaside sanctuary.

"This bill has the potential to end the deep injustice of exhibitions of captive marine life," Perle said.

Corrected: June 30, 2022 at 5:53 PM PDT
KPBS' Maureen Cavanaugh, Patty Lane and Peggy Pico contributed to the Midday and Evening Edition segments.