Proposed ORCA Act Would End Display of Captive Killer Whales in U.S.

SeaWorld’s announcement this week that it will end its killer whale show in San Diego seems like wonderful news. Unfortunately, SeaWorld will continue to display live orcas in a new, larger tank expected to be completed in 2017 – that is, unless a new bill becomes law before then.

California Rep. Adam Schiff is introducing the Orca Responsibility and Care Advancement (ORCA) Act, which would phase out the public display of captive killer whales in the United States.

“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 Nov. 6. “We cannot be responsible stewards of our natural environment and propagate messages about the importance of animal welfare when our behaviors do not reflect our principles.”

The ORCA Act would impose bans on permits to capture or import orcas for the purpose of public display; permits to export orcas for public display; and inseminating or breeding orcas for exhibition purposes.

It amends the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 to prohibit the taking, importation and exportation of orcas for public display and other purposes.

Samantha Berg, a former marine mammal trainer at SeaWorld, witnessed how much the orcas suffered in captivity.

“No amount of toys, larger tanks, better veterinary care or love and attention from their trainers will ever come close to simulating the richness of their lives in the ocean,” Berg said at the news conference. “We cannot meet their needs in captivity.”

The larger tank SeaWorld plans to build was approved in October by the California Coastal Commission — with the stipulation that the park must stop breeding its captive orcas. SeaWorld, which continues to insist that orcas are safer in captivity than in the wild, is fighting the commission.

Joel Manby, SeaWorld’s new CEO, announced the company’s plans for its San Diego park at an investors conference Monday, CBS News reports.

“We are listening to our guests, we’re evolving as a company, so in 2017 we will launch an all-new orca experience,” he said. “2016 will be the last year of our theatrical killer whale experience.”

While orcas will no longer be performing tricks for park visitors, they will still be confined to a tank in SeaWorld’s new Blue World Project.

“Guests can walk alongside our killer whales as if at the shore, interact with them at depths found in the ocean, or see them from a bird’s eye view,” says the website.

SeaWorld has not indicated whether the killer whale shows will also end in its Florida and Texas parks. The company has been losing money ever since the documentary “Blackfish,” which put a spotlight on the cruelty of confining whales, was released in 2013.

Last year a similar bill, the Orca Welfare and Safety Act (AB 2140), was introduced by California Assembly member Richard Bloom. That bill, which would have banned orca captivity in California, died in committee.

Hopefully the nationwide ORCA Act will have better luck. It will not only affect SeaWorld but other marine parks around the country, including Six Flags Discovery Kingdom in Northern California, which has been accused by former employees of neglecting marine mammals.

The ORCA Act is supported by the Humane Society of the United States, the Animal Welfare Institute and other organizations. SeaWorld, naturally, is opposed to it.

“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,” said Senior Corporate Affairs Officer Jill Kermes in a statement, CBS 8 reports.

But unlike SeaWorld’s PR flacks, actual marine animal experts say the company, as well as other marine parks, are indeed a part of the problem.

“The growing body of scientific evidence is compelling for orcas,” said Dr. Naomi Rose, marine mammal scientist for the Animal Welfare Institute, at the news conference announcing the ORCA Act. “They are simply too large, too wide-ranging, too socially complex and too intelligent to thrive in any-sized concrete enclosure.

“Orcas do not belong in captivity.”

Photo Credit: Josh Hallett


Vivian B.
Vivian B2 years ago

It is high time that SeaWorld RELEASE captive cetaceans to sea pens to get them used to the ocean! And then RELEASE THEM!!! ALL OF THEM!!! Then RELEASE ALL ZOO CAPTIVES TO THE WILD, WHERE THEY BELONG!!!

Vivian B.
Vivian B2 years ago

It is high time that SeaWorld RELEASE captive cetaceans to sea pens to get them used to the ocean! And then RELEASE THEM!!! ALL OF THEM!!! Then RELEASE ALL ZOO CAPTIVES TO THE WILD, WHERE THEY BELONG!!!

Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus3 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

Ruth C.
Ruth C3 years ago

Orca's don't belong in captivity!

Fi T.
Past Member 3 years ago

Animals are not for the human to use

Ricky T.
Ricky T3 years ago

Push this act through...NOW! I'm glad the psychological impact on these glorious creatures is being addressed here. I still recall in 'Blackfish' when the baby was took away from it's Mother, and I can still hear her screams now!

Kamia T.
Kamia T3 years ago

I would love to see the aquariums still in existence for anything but rehabilitation fall off the face of the planet. I don't think laws will solve the problems. Only our boycotting them all long enough that they go out of business will.

Birgit W.
Birgit W3 years ago

Signed already. Thanks.

Sherri S.
Sherri S3 years ago

Contrary to what Joel Manby, SeaWorld’s new CEO, says, they are not listening to their customers. Unless they TOTALLY change their business model, I have a feeling they will be out of business in a few years. Thank you Gabriela Cowperthwaite for making Blackfish and sharing/exposing the world of captive Orcas.

Pablo B.
.3 years ago