Last year state lawmakers introduced legislation that would have made it illegal to keep both wild-caught and captive-bred whales, dolphins and porpoises in captivity for entertainment.
While that bill didn’t move forward, at the end of January Rep. Kevin Van De Wege took up the issue and introduced a similar bill (HB 2888). This bill will ban the possession of wild-caught or captive-bred cetaceans, captures, imports and breeding and will make violations punishable with fines and potential jail time.
There are exemptions for facilities that do rehabilitation and research, but the bill still requires that animals be returned to the wild, and that those animals who are not releasable be kept in facilities approved by the National Marine Fisheries Service and adds that they may not be used for performances or entertainment.
While there are no captive whales or dolphins currently in the state, Washington has a long and tragic history involving orca captures off of its coast decades ago that are believed to be responsible for decimating the beloved population of southern resident killer whales who reside there today.
Today, an orca named Lolita is the sole survivor of the captures that took place in Puget Sound. She’s been languishing at the Miami Seaquarium for more than four decades. While her advocates are working to see her retired and returned home to her family, lawmakers in the state are clearly not going to give up on making sure no more cetaceans suffer the way Lolita and others of her kind have.
Last week, animal advocates celebrated when the House passed the latest version of the bill by a vote of 64-33. Now it moves on to a Senate committee for a vote before it will go to Senate floor and supporters are urging people to speak up on behalf of captive cetaceans to ensure it gets passed.
While efforts are underway to get this legislation passed in Washington, there are still ongoing efforts to end captivity in North America. The Orca Responsibility and Care Advancement (ORCA) Act in the U.S. and the Ending Captivity of Whales and Dolphins Act in Canada could change the future forever for whales and dolphins. If passed, these bills would also send a strong message to the world that the suffering of highly intelligent, social and far-ranging animals for our amusement is no longer acceptable and won’t be supported.
Washington residents can show their support by contacting their Senators and urging them to support HB 2888.
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