There's been quite the buzz around the cetacean scene lately; OSHA denying Sea World's appeal for trainers to return to water work, the International Court of Justice declaring that Japan's “scientific whaling” is no longer authorized in the Southern Ocean, and legislation in California is seeking to ban the captivity of orcas for entertainment purposes.
This bill(AB2140), which was proposed by Assemblyman Richard Bloom, is aimed at ending the use of orcas for entertainment, specifically at the Sea World park in San Diego and, if passed, Sea World's famous killer whale shows would come to an end. Although voting has been postponed until 2015 as the committees involved take a step back to learn more, the “educational” whale circuses could very well be tanked(pun intended). In California at least.
Sea World lobbyist, Scott Wetch, implied that if the bill were to be enacted, the whales would be moved to different locations outside of California, not released into sea pens. Wetch seems to be under the impression that release into sea pens would mean “certain death” for the whales. I wonder what he thinks of the multiple death of orcas that have lived at Sea World parks? Perhaps he's forgotten that concrete tanks aren't the natural environment of whales and dolphins nor would release into a sea pen come without an in depth rehabilitation plan. Indeed, not every orca in San Diego is eligible for complete release, but the alternative is release into a netted off cove or bay. The public could still visit them, but they would be in their natural environment and not be coerced into doing circus tricks. But as Sea World is constantly reminding us, their facilities are state of the art; although that cannot be denied, one must ponder whether a cage that is gilded is any less of a cage?
In a release from his office, Bloom stated, “There is no justification for the continued captive display of orcas for entertainment purposes. These beautiful creatures are much too large and far too intelligent to be confined in small, concrete tanks for their entire lives. It is time to end the practice of keeping orcas captive for human amusement.” The Orca Welfare and Safety Act would eliminate performance-based entertainment and the captive breeding of the whales with the end goal being killer whale captivity being phased out of California entirely.
The legislation comes in the wake of the release of Blackfish, the controversial documentary depicting the events that lead to the death of Sea World trainer Dawn Brancheau in February of 2010. Since the documentary has been released, the public has grown more and more aware of the sheer intelligence of cetaceans and exactly how self aware they are. Blackfish remained disciplined in it's exposure of Sea World, but the events depicted in the documentary were enough to spur public interest and many have sought out answers to their questions on their own, pulling the dark history of Sea World even further into the light. Despite desperate claims from the marine park that captivity is necessary for cetacean conservation, it would seem that people are finally coming to the realization that the time for orcas and other cetaceans to be used for entertainment should be left in the past.
In my perfect scenario, the passing of this ban would jump start Sea World into being what they claim to be: an educational powerhouse at the forefront of marine conservation, minus the corruption and exploitation of sentient beings. If they want to return to being the poster child for family joy and education, perhaps they should start listening to the indignant cries of the public before they sink even further into the pit of being Public Enemy #1. In case they haven't dug the cotton out of their ears yet, I suppose I could spell it out:
-There is nothing educational about cetaceans beaching themselves on slide outs or doing tail walks like a synchronized swim team.
-It is incredibly behind the times and in denial of modern research to claim that a tank is an enriching environment for a whale or dolphin.
-The wool can no longer be pulled over anyone's eyes. The truth has come out. The public is waking up.