Bills to Ban Cetacean Captivity Stall in WA and CA
By Mark J. Palmer
International Marine Mammal Project
Earth Island Institute
Legislation to ban any imports into, and breeding or holding of captive dolphins, porpoises or whales in the state of Washington for entertainment or performance purposes, has unfortunately stalled in the state legislature. Washington State Senate Bill S 5666 would make any such actions illegal, with an exemption for animals held for rehabilitation, rescue, stranding or research. Any such animals should be returned to the wild if possible, or held in a sea pen if release is not possible. The bill is sponsored by state Senator Kevin Ranker.
No cetaceans are currently on display in Washington State, so the bill would prevent any such displays in the future. Currently, South Carolina bans any captive cetaceans, the only state to do so.
At a recent hearing on S 5666 on Feb. 5th, SeaWorld sent a “team” north to Washington to protest the legislation. Its members’ testimony focused on the so-called importance of captive cetaceans for “research” at SeaWorld and other parks. However, review of such SeaWorld research studies shows virtually all such published scientific papers dealt with animal husbandry for cetaceans in captivity, not conservation of wild cetaceans as falsely claimed by SeaWorld.
In the Washington Assembly, a companion bill has been introduced, HB 2115. Both bills are stalled however, with the Senate bill being held in Committee, and the Assembly bill failing a vote to be reported by the Assembly Agriculture & Natural Resources Committee on Feb. 19th.
Meanwhile, the effort for legislation in California also continues to be stalled. AB 2140 was introduced last year to ban orcas in captivity and to move existing captive orcas to sea pens. But the Assembly Water, Parks & Wildlife Committee moved the legislation to interim study. So far, the Committee has not proposed any hearings for the interim study, and it is not clear when or if the bill will be reintroduced.
The major political problem in California is that Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins, who controls the Assembly floor agenda and who holds the third most powerful political office in California, represents the district that includes SeaWorld. She is a strong SeaWorld supporter. As such, she appears to have taken the same position as SeaWorld that there is not a problem with cetaceans in captivity and that SeaWorld can afford to avoid any reforms.
WHAT YOU CAN DO:
Citizens of Washington State should contact their own Senators and Assemblymembers in support of S 5666 and HB 2115.
Citizens of California should contact Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins, urging her to drop her opposition to AB 2140, the Orca Welfare and Safety Act, and encourage her to support such legislation.
Email Speaker Atkins: https://lcmspubcontact.lc.ca.gov/PublicLCMS/ContactPopup.php?district=AD78
Please be polite -- Speaker Atkins has supported animal legislation.
Photo of SeaWorld Orlando circus act with dolphins by Mark J. Palmer/Earth Island Institute.