Proposed law to pull the plug on SeaWorld whale shows dead in the water for now
AB2140, the proposed bill to stop the exhibition, studying, and breeding of killer whales in California, was stalled in a Water Parks and Wildlife Committee meeting and tabled this morning in Sacramento. The author of the potential law, Richard Bloom, a Democratic assemblyman from Santa Monica, conceded that further study of the matter was necessary before presenting the bill to the entire State Assembly. This means the bill can not be brought before the committee until next year, with no full legislative vote prior to the middle of 2015.
Had it been presented to the lawmakers and passed, the law, which would only effect one park: SeaWorld in San Diego, would prevent the attraction from using killer whales in any shows, would disallow any breeding in captivity, and would have forced the releasing of the orcas.
The writing and presenting of the bill was originally inspired by a documentary movie called “Blackfish”, which claims to show that the whales are being abused by being kept captive in conditions too small for their size. The movie, which has been shown in cinemas and on television on CNN also reports on the killing of a worker at SeaWorld by an orca.
San Diego’s tourism industry is important, powerful, and a prime source of income for the city. The industry is against the proposed law, citing the economic impact of losing the killer whale shows. There were 4.4 million paying customers at SeaWorld in 2013. The park has 4500 employees at the height of the tourism season. SeaWorld pays the city $14 million for leasing the city-owned property the park is built on.
Officials for the park deny the abuse charges, and have stated that the orcas there enjoy a higher quality of life than whales in the wild. They contend that the opportunity to study the whales in captivity is crucial to the continued existence of the species. They note that almost every visitor to SeaWorld attends a whale show.