California SeaWorld Phasing Out Killer Whale Shows

Photo: Patrick Frilet/REX Shutterstock
Update: The end of the Blackfish era could be near: SeaWorld will phase out its exploitative killer whale shows at its San Diego park in 2017, reportd the San Diego Union Tribune. In a post uploaded to SeaWorld's website ahead of a planned webcast, the company said it would move away from the shows that inspired protests and boycotts and towards a more educational setup that emphasizes conservation. SeaWorld operates 11 parks, including SeaWorlds in Orlando and Austin. Those two locations were not mentioned in the documents posted online.

This story was originally published on November 8, 2015.

Since the 2013 release of the documentary Blackfish, which investigated the death of SeaWorld trainer Dawn Brancheau and the harrowing effect of captivity on killer whales and other animals, SeaWorld has been under some hard-to-ignore scrutiny for its shocking treatment of animals. Despite its ill-advised #AskSeaWorld public relations campaign, attendance at the company's theme parks has continued to drop steadily — along with its stock prices. Just last month, a new California law ruled that SeaWorld can no longer breed killer whales in captivity. And now, a congressman from Southern California is proposing a law that may finally put an end to the days of orcas in legal captivity.

On Friday, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank), announced that he plans to introduce the Orca Responsibility and Care Advancement (ORCA) Act, a bill that would “phase out the captivity of orcas so that their display ends with this generation,” reports Gawker. The bill, if approved, would outlaw the breeding of captive orca, prohibit the capture of wild orca, and stop the import and export of killer whales into and out of the United States, essentially putting an end to any shows across the country that feature the marine mammals once those currently in captivity die.

"The evidence is very strong that the psychological and physical harm done to these magnificent animals far outweighs any benefits reaped from their display," Schiff said in a statement excerpted by The San Diego Union-Tribune. In response to Schiff's announcement, SeaWorld Entertainment senior corporate affairs officer Jill Kermes released a statement insisting that the company does not neglect or abuse killer whales, but instead works to ensure "that all animals in human care are treated with the dignity and respect they require and deserve."

Marine mammal scientist Naomi Rose, who has been a vocal advocate against SeaWorld, told Gawker that while the bill’s chances of success “are not fantastically high,” it does have bipartisan support. And perhaps most importantly, “it sends a strong message, to the public display industry and the states with captive orcas, that this is a public interest matter, solidly in the mainstream."

Here's hoping.

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