Victory! First State Bans Orca Breeding and Performances

In a historic victory for captive whales and dolphins, this week California became the first state in the nation to ban breeding orcas and using them in performances.

While opposition to keeping orcas in captivity was around well before the documentary Blackfish started making waves, the film unquestionably helped bring the issue to a much wider audience and has gotten more people have start seriously questioning whether confining them is justifiable at all.

In response to growing concerns about the welfare of orcas in captivity, Assemblyman Richard Bloom introduced legislation in 2014 that would end breeding and performances, among other measures, in an effort to protect them from the harmful impact of captivity. With California being home to approximately one-fifth of all captive orcas, it was a prime place to enact such a ban.

Although it didn’t pass at the time, it was widely supported by animal advocacy organizations and the public – more than 59,000 people signed a Care2 petition in support of passing it.

Fortunately, it was reintroduced this March, after SeaWorld made the announcement that it would end its breeding program, and it was signed into law this week by Governor Jerry Brown.

“This is a momentous decision that reflects established science on orca well-being, and also public opinion that increasingly demands that these majestic, highly intelligent beings should not be held captive,” said Dr. Toni Frohoff, Cetacean Scientist for In Defense of Animals, which recently included SeaWorld in its newly created list of the Ten Worst Tanks for Dolphins and Whales.

While the 11 orcas currently at SeaWorld San Diego will remain there, the new law makes it illegal to breed them, use them in performances, and import or export them, which means SeaWorld now has the last generation of orcas in the state.

It really ensures that SeaWorld can’t go back on its pledge, and that no other marine parks will open up in the state and try to take over where SeaWorld left off. Supporters also hope it will set the stage for the introduction of similar legislation in other states where orcas are confined.

“California can serve as a model for other states, including Florida and Texas where other orcas are displayed, to end the confinement in concrete boxes of these magnificent top ocean predators,” said Dr. Naomi Rose, a marine mammal scientist with the Animal Welfare Institute.

While SeaWorld has adamantly opposed retiring its orcas to sea sanctuaries, animal advocates are still working to make that a reality for captive cetaceans.

For more info on how to support those efforts, check out the Whale Sanctuary Project.

Photo credit: Thinkstock


Marie W.
Marie W2 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus2 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

Jennifer H.
Jennifer H2 years ago

Good on you, Anne Maclean. No idea what Ron has his panties in a twist over since this is a big breakthrough trying to keep orcas from living a life of hell - at least in California. He sounds like he holds a grudge on the orca receiving the protections. And RKR did you even look at just the title? Bans Breeding. Wow tough crowd.

Mike H.
Mike H2 years ago

Terrific! Thank you

Margie FOURIE2 years ago

Thank you

Manuela C.
Manuela C2 years ago

Great news!

Erika C.
Erika C2 years ago

Great news, every captivity sea-world business worldwide should follow. Thanks for sharing.

Past Member
Past Member 2 years ago

With the ability to show all animals in holograms, shows, circuses and zoos are no longer needed. Leave them in the wild, where they belong.

Joy T.
Joy T2 years ago


Elaine W.
Past Member 2 years ago

Hurrah !! The Orca Thanks You.