The delay on the controversial bill, AB2140 to ban Orca shows at SeaWorld in San Diego, was due to an Assembly committee decision on Tuesday that called for additional study that could take at least 18 months. Although it is only stalled, advocates for the killer whales are not happy.
The bill's author, Democrat Richard Bloom of Santa Monica, agreed during the bill's first hearing before the Water, Parks and Wildlife committee to revisit his proposal after further study. As a result, the bill designed to relieve the forced captivity of these magnificent creatures is dead for this year and the soonest lawmakers could vote on the proposal would be mid-2015.
"It's unfortunate that much of the conversation has been fueled ... by fear and invective and misinformation," Bloom said. "It's clear that many committee members are simply unprepared to make a decision on the bill."
Bloom was inspired to initiate the bill after watching the 2013 documentary Blackfish, in which filmmakers argue that captivity and mistreatment of orcas make the animals aggressive.
Naomi Rose, a marine mammal scientist at the Animal Welfare Institute, one of the bill's sponsors, said she was disappointed by the move but pleased at the idea of more study, which could make for a stronger case.
John Reilly, president of SeaWorld San Diego, said he doubted a compromise is possible with people backing the bill. SeaWorld officials labeled Rose and others as extremists working off emotion and an inaccurate view of SeaWorld presented in the documentary Blackfish.
The film depicts the "39-year history of killer whales in captivity leading up to the 2010 killing of Sea World trainer Dawn Brancheau by the 12,000-pound orca, Tilikum, a whale previously associated with the death of two other people. Blackfish chillingly shows that this incident of violence is hardly an isolated one, along the way exploring the extraordinary nature of orcas, thought to be one of the most intelligent species in the animal kingdom."
It also focuses on the life of Tilikum, and other orcas, that live their entire lives in captivity and includes shocking footage and emotional interviews in an attempt to explore the creature’s extraordinary nature, and the species’ cruel treatment in captivity at the hands of the multi-billion dollar sea-park industry.
Assemblyman Anthony Rendon (D-Lakewood), chairman of the Water, Parks and Wildlife Committee, said the issue of killer whales in captivity is too complex to be decided after a two-hour hearing in Sacramento.
The panel's action, called sending the bill to "interim study," which did not require a vote, conveniently sparing the members from choosing between SeaWorld and the animals-rights activists. But what about the whales?
Speaker-elect Toni Atkins (D-San Diego), in a statement issued by her office, said the "analysis and discussion" during the interim study "will strengthen our understanding of the issues and will lead to a more informed decision." After all, SeaWorld is in her district and a major contributor to her region's economic strength through tourism.
Although she expressed no opinion on the bill, Atkins has long been a SeaWorld supporter and was a featured speaker last month at its 50th anniversary.
SeaWorld also threatened to sue the state, claiming that the bill would all but eliminate the park's program of "rescuing injured animals in the wild." A statement that has been proven untrue - as the film exposed - they steal baby orcas right from their mother's in the wild in order to train them young.
The bill would prohibit orcas from being used for "performance or entertainment purposes" and require SeaWorld to return the orcas to the wild "where possible." If that is deemed impossible, the orcas must be "transferred to a sea pen."
Bloom said that his bill was "a work in progress" and that he welcomed the opportunity for "additional dialogue."
SeaWorld San Diego has 10 orcas: four caught in the wild, six born in captivity. The Bloom bill would also prohibit the captive breeding of orcas.
Image via YouTube