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Legislature Passes Santa Monica Assemblyman’s Orca Protection Act
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Convention and Visitors Bureau Santa Monica

By Jonathan Friedman
Associate Editor

August 29, 2016 -- Two years after Santa Monica Assemblyman Richard Bloom first proposed banning captive breeding and live shows featuring orcas, better known as killer whales, his legislation passed Friday in the Senate and awaits Gov. Jerry Brown’s possible signature.

The California Orca Protection Act, which is included in a budget bill featuring various pieces of unrelated legislation, was approved by the Assembly last month.

“The passage of the Orca Protection Act is a significant step forward for animal welfare in the state of California,” said Bloom in a statement released Friday.

He continued, “Ending orca breeding and captivity has been a statewide and national effort for many years and has gained widespread support from animal rights activists and the general public.”

Passage of the legislation now is arguably less significant than it would have have been when proposed in 2014.

SeaWorld, the target of this legislation, announced earlier this year that it would immediately end captive breeding of the killer whales and stop the shows at its San Diego location by next year and in other places by 2019.

Various environmental groups praised the Senate vote on Friday. The Animal Welfare (AWI) Institute called the legislation “historic” in a statement.

“California can serve as a model for other states, including Florida and Texas, where other orcas are displayed, to end the confinement in concrete boxes of these magnificent top ocean predators,” said Dr. Naomi Rose, AWI marine mammal scientist.

The legislation specifically outlaws killer whales from being held in captivity. Those currently living in captivity are exempt, although they cannot participate in shows after next June.

SeaWorld has said it would use the killer whales for “educational presentations,” which is allowed in the bill.

Also banned are breeding, including artificial insemination, as well as selling killer whales to places in other states or countries.

Bloom announced the original legislation in March 2014 while standing on the Santa Monica Pier with filmmaker Gabriela Cowperthwaite, who directed the 2013 anti-SeaWorld documentary “Blackfish" (“Santa Monica’s State Assembly Representative Wants to End Orca Captivity,” March 7, 2014).

That original bill faced opposition from SeaWorld and others who said it would harm San Diego’s tourist industry. Opponents included Toni Atkins, a San Diego legislator who at the time was speaker of the Assembly and now serves as a State senator.

After one month of significant attention and media coverage, the Assembly’s Committee on Water, Parks and Wildlife voted not to send the bill to the floor for a vote.

Instead, it called for the issue to be studied (“Santa Monica Rep. Richard Bloom’s Orca Bill Stalled for Study,” April 9, 2014).

Bloom did not reintroduce the bill in 2015, citing that he did not want to interfere with the ongoing study. He brought the proposal back this year.

SeaWorld said it worked with Bloom to create the updated legislation, although it did not take an official position on it.

“SeaWorld is already making the changes called for in the legislation, and the federal government regulates marine mammals in zoological settings through the Marine Mammal Protection Act and the Animal Welfare Act,” SeaWorld said in a statement released in March.

It continued, “It’s important to note that the 11 whales currently at SeaWorld San Diego will stay in our care. Most of SeaWorld’s orcas were born in human care and the environmental threats in our oceans, like oil spills and pollution, are huge dangers for these animals."

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