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Santa Monica Assemblyman Mourns for Killer Whale  

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By Jonathan Friedman
Associate Editor

January 9, 2017 -- Democratic Assemblyman and former Santa Monica mayor Richard Bloom, who wrote legislation taking on SeaWorld's treatment of killer whales (also known as orcas), announced Friday that he was saddened by the death of perhaps the world's most famous orca--Tilikum.

A captive killer whale believed to be about 36 years old, Tilikum died Friday morning at SeaWorld in Orlando from what the company said were natural causes (pending a necropsy) possibly linked to a lung infection.

Tilikum was involved in three human deaths over the past three decades and was the subject of the anti-SeaWorld documentary "Blackfish."

"My heart goes out to all who have cared for him over the years and the countless individuals who have worked so hard to put an end to orca captivity," Bloom said.

The popularity of "Blackfish" and its placement of Tilikum in the spotlight led to significant public pressure against SeaWorld's use of killer whales in shows.

SeaWorld announced earlier this year that it would immediately end captive breeding and stop all the shows by 2019.

"Sadly, [Tilikum's] life was needed for us to realize this tragedy had to stop," said Bloom, adding that "Tilikum embodied all that is wrong with having orcas in captivity."

Bloom captured international attention in 2014 when he proposed legislation to end orca captivity.

He made the announcement about the bill on the Santa Monica Pier while standing next to "Blackfish" director Gabriela Cowperthwaite ("Santa Monica's State Assembly Representative Wants to End Orca Captivity," March 7, 2014).

But the bill faced opposition from SeaWorld and those concerned about its effect on tourism in San Diego, including Toni Atkins, a legislator from that area who at the time was speaker of the Assembly.

Held up by an Assembly committee, the bill never made it to the floor for a vote.

Bloom introduced a new bill last year that SeaWorld said it helped him draft, although it did not take an official position on the legislation.

The new bill mostly contained language that SeaWorld had already agreed to. It easily passed through the legislature and was signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown.

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