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Committee sidelines SeaWorld killer whale ban

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SACRAMENTO — A bill aimed at ending killer-whale shows at SeaWorld San Diego was tabled for at least a year  by an Assembly committee Tuesday.

SeaWorld Killer Whales

Photo: Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times

Assemblyman Anthony Rendon (D-Lakewood), chairman of the Parks, Water and Wildlife Committee, said the issue of killer whales in captivity is too complex to be decided after a hearing of less than two hours.

The chairman’s action, which did not require a vote, will keep the bill from coming up for a vote until at least mid-2015, Rendon said.

AB 2140 by Assemblyman Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica) would prohibit orcas from being used for “performance or entertainment purposes” and require SeaWorld to return the orcas to the wild “where possible.” If that is deemed impossible, the orcas must be “transferred to a sea pen.”

SeaWorld San Diego has 10 orcas: four caught in the wild, six born in captivity. The Bloom bill would also prohibit the captive breeding of orcas or the transferring of them to SeaWorld parks in Florida and Texas.

The bill was sparked by the advocacy film “Blackfish,” shown in theaters and on CNN. The film asserts that the killer whales are mistreated in captivity by being kept in close confinement and notes the death of a SeaWorld employee in Florida in 2010, killed by an orca.

Kyle Kittleson, former SeaWorld trainer, called Bloom’s bill ridiculous and the idea of keeping whales in a sea pen can be detrimental.

“It is an obvious no, an obvious no,” said Kittleson. “When we have tried it in the past, the whales have died.”

He also said to shut the shows down would only hurt the whales.

“It would be like me saying to you ‘you know what? No more throwing the ball for your dog.’ That’s bad, your dog would miss that,” said Kittleson. “That’s such a stimulating, enriching component of their lives.”

He said Blackfish was large untrue, he points out trainers in the movie are now speaking out against the film.

“When they see it and they realize I don’t want to be represented like that, because it’s wrong,” said Kittleson. “It is not worth destroying the lives of these animals to promote your political career.  This isn’t about you Mr. Bloom.”

For now, the Shamu show will go on.  Kittleson said he is all for legislation to help the whales, but Bloom’s bill is nothing but political play.

San Diego’s tourism industry opposed the law because of the economic threat to SeaWorld if orca shows are banned. Although the park has many other attractions, the orca shows at Shamu Stadium have long been the marquee.

SeaWorld San Diego drew 4.4 million visitors last year, employs 4,500 workers during the peak tourism season, and pays more than $14 million in rent to the city.

Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego), the only member of the Water, Parks and Wildlife Committee from San Diego County, said Monday that she would support the bill. She said she rejects the economic arguments against the ban on orca shows and instead is concerned that if the shows are not ended “another employee will be hurt or killed by a distressed orca.”



    • megan

      Unfortunately there are a few trainers who have been killed because of killer whales in captivity. Not saying that any harm should come to these beautiful animals but this kind of entertainment is not something that is safe for anyone involved.

    • The beholder SD

      Exactly! why tare they fronting!? we know their concern is the FACT that their wallets will end up being hurt, not the whales. They're using the whales as an excuse to get away with murder. Of course the same one's opposing the bill are the same employees for " Sea World" they're afraid of being jobless they know if there's no whales, there's no show, therefore no customers. Sad. But WE THE PEOPLE shall not rest till it becomes a LAW to ban their ongoing circus.

  • Katie

    Assembly Bill 2140 was presented to the CA legislature today. It’s been put on hold for a year to further review.
    Proponents of the bill led with all the reasons that orca captivity is fatal to the animals’ well-being physically and mentally, provides no proof that the shows are a valuable activity for education/conservation, and that for over 50 years there has been more/better scientific research completed for whales in the wild vs. captivity. Oh, and that continuing to breed them in captivity and buy them from other countries only continues the cycle of abuse.
    Opposers ($eaWorld) led their talk with how much MONEY$$$ their amusement park brings to San Diego. Predictable.
    It is time to end the practice of keeping orcas captive for human amusement. Change of $eaWorld’s business model will happen if it is affected by what they cherish most = $$$$.
    Peaceful, organized protest happening April 20th. Can’t make the protest? A simple boycott will do. Thank you!!!

  • Hunter Kilpatrick

    This bill did not die in committee as your article states. Did you even watch it? It was referred to interim study. This means to refine parts of it, specifically a plan of how to retire the San Diego 10, and then bring it back to committee to vote. You should learn a little bit about the legislative process before you report erroneously on it.

    • Sharon

      Hi, this is Sharon the Reporter on the story. Just to clear we never said the bill died…only that it was tabled/postponed. It did fail to pass this morning because lawmakers want further study of the issue.

  • Megan

    It is interesting to see that is topic is really trending in our media at the moment. Last week for my political science class we were assigned to watch a documentary of our choosing from a list of films and the film Blackfish was one that was on that list. It was really a great film to watch and would recommend it to anyone who is interested in this topic it really makes you feel for the animals themselves and also for the trainers past and present.

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