The Show Goes On (For Now)

Debated / Orca whales perform for an audience at SeaWorld San Diego. A bill that would release them from captivity has been delayed pending further research. / MCT Campus

By Chelsea Ybanez 

A month after a bill banning orca captivity and breeding was introduced, lawmakers delayed a vote scheduled for April 8 until more research is complete. Studies will be conducted until next year when the legislature will decide if SeaWorld San Diego’s Orcas must be released.

The studies taken before the final vote will focus on the longevity of whales held in captivity as opposed to those in the wild. Researchers will investigate the alleged suffering of whales at SeaWorld and determine the feasibility and cost of moving them to open sea pens.

For the first time in years, SeaWorld hired a lobbyist, Scott Wetch, to defend the company’s reputation as a marine animal rescue and research facility.

“The ban and restrictions in the bill constitute a classic taking under the Fifth Amendment as it deprives SeaWorld of the economic value of these whales,” Wetch said.

SeaWorld and the Shamu Show attract more than 20 million people each year, many of which are tourists that fuel San Diego’s economy.

The Orca Welfare and Safety Act was nicknamed the “Blackfish Bill” after its drafting stemmed from the controversy brought to light in a 2012 documentary about the park’s captured whales. SeaWorld claims the film is propaganda and inaccurate in its displaying their treatment of the orcas.

Related Story: Whales in Captivity

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