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San Francisco Recognizes Cetaceans Right to Freedom

October 22, 2014 by Laura Bridgeman

On Wednesday, October 21, 2014, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors passed a resolution stating that cetaceans have the rights to be free and to not be confined in captivity.

Backed by Supervisor Scott Wiener and sponsored by Earth Island Institute’s International Marine Mammal Project, the resolution references the sentience and high intelligence of cetaceans as reasons for recognizing their rights “to be free of captivity, and to remain unrestricted in their natural environment.’

“This resolution reflects an understanding that what we once believed about dolphins and whales – that they are unthinking automatons – is in fact false, and that they deserve to be free,” says Laura Bridgeman, Campaign and Communications Specialist of the International Marine Mammal Project. “Our laws should be increasingly informed by this knowledge. This is resolution is a step in the right direction.”

The resolution also makes reference to the psychological stress and high mortality rates caused by captivity at places such as SeaWorld, as illustrated by the 2013 documentary Blackfish.

“The San Francisco Board of Supervisors did a wonderful thing in recognizing that cetaceans have the right to be unrestricted and free from captivity,” said San Francisco Animal Control and Welfare Commissioner Russell Tenofsky, who first introduced the resolution to the Commission earlier this year. “Hopefully other municipalities will follow suit and provide even further rights and protections for whales and dolphins.”

Local and national organizations, leading scientists and hundreds of San Francisco high school students wrote letters of support for the resolution, something that resonated deeply with the board. Supervisors Tang and Wiener gave special thanks to the students who wrote their support. “I hope this shows (young people) that when they organize, they sometimes, and hopefully frequently, get what they want,” said Wiener.

 

Full Resolution Text: 

FILE NO. 141044 RESOLUTION NO.
Supervisor Wiener 
BOARD OF SUPERVISORS


[Free and Safe Passage of Whales and Dolphins in San Francisco’s Coastal Waters]


Resolution supporting the free and safe passage of whales and dolphins in San
Francisco’s coastal waters, San Francisco Bay, and its estuaries.


WHEREAS, Scientific evidence has shown whales and dolphins to be highly intelligent,
sentient, emotional marine mammals that live in families or close-knit socially-oriented groups,
lasting generations; and
WHEREAS, Whales cited near San Francisco include Blue Whales, Gray Whales,
Humpback Whales, and Orcas; and
WHEREAS, Dolphins cited near San Francisco include Bottlenose Dolphin, the Pacific
White-sided Dolphin, and the Harbor Porpoise; and
WHEREAS, The City and County of San Francisco has a long history of supporting
efforts to protect marine mammals, including calling for and supporting local and international
protections; and
WHEREAS, It is imperative that these magnificent creatures be protected in their
natural environment; and
WHEREAS, Captive individuals display signs of increased psychological stress and a
higher mortality rate; and
WHEREAS, The San Francisco Commission of Animal Control and Welfare adopted a
Resolution supporting the free and safe passage of marine mammals; now, therefore, be it
RESOLVED, That the City and County of San Francisco supports the free and safe
passage of all whales and dolphins in our coastal waters, including the Pacific Ocean, the San
Francisco Bay, and its estuaries; and, be it
FURTHER RESOLVED, That every whale and dolphin has the right to be free of
captivity, and to remain unrestricted in their natural environment.

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San Francisco Recognizes Cetaceans Right to Freedom