On Friday, California Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff announced that he is planning federal legislation aimed at ending the captivity of killer whales by banning breeding, importing and exporting animals for public display, according to Los Angeles Daily News.
The legislation, called the Orca Responsibility and Care Advancement Act, seeks to ensure that orcas that are currently held in aquatic parks such as SeaWorld are the last of their kind. Its aim is that when these animals die, there will be no whales to replace them at those parks.
The bill would also ban the taking of any whales from the wild. While no orca whales have been captured in U.S. waters since 1976, Schiff says that killer whales are still bred in captivity.
“The evidence is very strong that the psychological and physical harm done to these magnificent animals far outweighs any benefits reaped from their display,” Schiff said at a news conference in Santa Monica.
The California congressman argues that keeping these animals and breeding them in captivity is cruel, while SeaWorld contends that the whales thrives at the park. Reps from SeaWorld have said that in fact the parks foster an understanding of the animals.
“While efforts to phase out whales in human care may strike an emotional chord, SeaWorld and other science-based organizations are part of the solution, not the problem,” Jill Kermes, a spokeswoman for SeaWorld Entertainment, said in a statement.
Last month, the California Coastal Commission endorsed a $100 million dollar expansion of the tanks SeaWorld uses to hold orcas under the condition that the park no longer breeds the animals. Additionally, the deal will only go through under the condition that the sale, trade, or transfer becomes prohibited.
SeaWold has made it clear that they will challenge these rulings in court.