Orca Protection Bill Would Phase Out SeaWorld’s ‘Shamu Shows’

CREDIT: AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes,File

Advocates protest SeaWorld's orca tanks at an October California Coastal Commission hearing

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) announced on Friday that he will introduce the Orca Responsibility and Care Advancement (ORCA) Act, to “phase out the captivity of orcas so that their display ends with this generation.” The legislation, which would ban breeding, wild capture, and import or export of orcas for the purpose of public exhibition, would eventually put an end to SeaWorld’s controversial “Shamu Shows.”

Schiff tweeted: “Orcas are too socially complex, too intelligent, too long-lived and simply too big to thrive in confinement.” His office released a fact-sheet noting that the proposal is supported by the Animal Welfare Institute, the Human Society of the United States, the Humane Society Legislative Fund, and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

SeaWorld, however, was quick to respond with a SeaWorld Cares blog post claiming that the amusement park chain has “always supported science-based regulation” and that “[w]hile 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.” The company asserted that its killer whales are “healthy and thriving,” claimed it has not captured a whale in the wild in 35 years, and that all of its animals are “treated with the dignity and respect they require and deserve.”

A critically acclaimed 2015 film called Blackfish alleged that SeaWorld subjected killer whales to mistreatment and exposed trainers to extreme danger and highlights the 2010 death of trainer Dawn Brancheau, who was killed by a SeaWorld orca named Tilikum. The company has denounced Blackfish as “propaganda, not a documentary.”

The company’s post on Friday promised that SeaWorld looks forward to “continued collaboration with the government so that together we meet our shared goals of protecting the welfare of our animals, as well as saving animals in the wild,” though that collaboration clearly will not include supporting Schiff’s bill.

The company has massively upped its lobbying efforts in Washington, D.C., and California, where a similar state bill was considered last year. In the first three quarters of 2015 alone, SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment Inc. reported spending a whopping $760,000 on its federal lobbying efforts — well above its 2014 annual total.