‘Blackfish’ bill banning orca shows at SeaWorld placed on hold
Riding a wave of national publicity and support of, among others, the state assembly member from San Diego, Lorena Gonzales, the “Blackfish” bill made it to the committee that sponsors strategized would be the most receptive. But, like a fisherman who catches a carp, the committee threw it back. The signature show that put SeaWorld on the map as a tourist attraction was the focus of political debate Tuesday.
“Assembly members, killer whales – or orcas – are one of the most complex species on the planet,” said Richard Bloom of the 50th Assembly District.
The Democrat from Santa Ana took his case to his peers Tuesday, urging the assembled Water, Parks and Wildlife Committee to support and pass his bill banning the practice of keeping orcas in captivity and training them to perform for entertainment. Assemblyman Bloom had an all-star team of animal rights advocates to bolster his argument.
“Science now knows that it is not in the best interest of orcas to be held in captivity,” said Naomi Rose of the Animal Welfare Institute.
“We witnessed the same type of disturbing, physical and behavioral proof that despite our love for these whales, we simply cannot give them what they need to thrive in captivity,” said former SeaWorld trainer John Hargrove.
“With the passage of AB 2140, the ten whales in San Diego could be moved from a terrestrial-based concrete tank to a marine-based sea pen,” said marine biologist Deborah Giles, “where they can be cared for; studied, but not bred or made to perform for entertainment purposes.”
And a long line of California voters stepped to the microphone to urge the committee to support AB 2140.
“SeaWorld has the chance to change its current model,” continued Bloom. “In the 'Voice of San Diego' article, for example, former Disney executive Ron Logan states that SeaWorld needs to come up with a new star and scale back their killer whale shows.”
But at the end of the day, the committee said assemblyman Bloom needs to come up with another bill. Former Mayor Jerry Sanders was one of the few opponents of the bill who spoke very briefly.
“We strongly oppose the bill,” Sanders said.
SeaWorld allowed KUSI cameras to come inside and record comments from the park's curator of animal training.
“Now that they're going to look and do more research on it,” said curator Alan Garver, “they're going to find that SeaWorld does an outstanding job of caring for its animals. It has outstanding facilities and an excellent medical, as well as behavioral, team taking care of the killer whales.”
SeaWorld executives say they are looking forward to educating lawmakers in the year ahead on the scientific appropriateness of the way orcas are treated at the San Diego waterpark.