California Makes New Move to Ban Orca Captivity

June 21, 2016


The California State Assembly has overwhelmingly approved a bill that would ban orca captivity for “display, performance, or entertainment purposes,” a move that activists hope will inspire similar actions in other states.

Legislators approved the California Orca Protection Act, a rider to an Assembly budget bill, on Thursday by a vote of 48–28, mostly along party lines, with Democrats favoring the legislation. Violators would face fines up to $100,000.

In addition to banning shows, the act also prohibits the breeding of any captive orca in California and makes it illegal to “export, collect, or import the semen, other gametes, or embryos of an orca held in captivity for the purpose of artificial insemination.”

The measure makes it illegal to export or sell an orca in California to another state or country unless authorized by federal law, or if the transfer “is to another facility within North America that meets standards comparable to those provided under the Animal Welfare Act.”

Under that provision, whales could be retired to sea sanctuaries in the United States or Canada, as envisioned by groups such as the Whale Sanctuary Project.

SeaWorld, though, has no intention of releasing any of its animals.

“Could it be done to move whales to sea cages? Yeah, it technically possibly could be done,” SeaWorld CEO Joel Manby said during an investor conference call on Wednesday. “But is it the safest thing for our animals? We do not believe it is.”

There are significant exemptions to the legislation.

Orcas can be held in captivity as long as there is an “educational presentation,” which the act defines as “a live, scheduled orca display in the presence of spectators that includes natural behaviors, enrichment, exercise activities, and a live narration and video content that provides science-based education to the public.”

To Read David Kirby’s full article please visit


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