California bans killer whale captivity and breeding

SAN DIEGO -- Breeding orcas in captivity and using them in shows for entertainment will be banned in California beginning next summer under a bill signed into law Tuesday by Gov. Jerry Brown.

SeaWorld San Diego, which used to feature killer whales as entertainment, announced earlier this year that it would only use them for educational purposes and discontinue its breeding program.

The California Orca Protection Act does not apply to scientific and educational institutions that have orcas for rehabilitation and research. The law goes into effect in June 2017.

“Very pleased to announce that my law protecting #orca from captive breeding in California was signed by @JerryBrownGov today,'' the bill's author, Assemblyman Richard Bloom, D-Santa Monica, tweeted Tuesday afternoon.

David Koontz, communications director for SeaWorld San Diego issued a statement in response to the new law.

“As a result of our recent announcement, we have been working with Assemblymember Bloom on this legislation, but SeaWorld does not have a position on the bill itself,'' Koonts said. “SeaWorld ended its orca breeding program effective March 17 and will replace all its theatrical killer whale shows with educational orca encounters starting in San Diego next year.

“The federal government already regulates marine mammals in zoological settings through the Marine Mammal Protection Act and the Animal Welfare Act.

“SeaWorld has introduced more than 400 million guests to orcas, and is proud of our part in contributing to the understanding of these animals. The orcas will stay at SeaWorld and will continue to receive the highest-quality care based on the latest advances in marine veterinary medicine, science and zoological best practices.

“Most of SeaWorld's orcas were born in a zoological setting and the environmental threats in our oceans, like oil spills and pollution are huge dangers for these animals. The best, and safest, future for these whales is to let them live out their lives at SeaWorld, receiving top care, in state-of-the-art habitats.''