By Lori Abbott
SACRAMENTO - The controversial documentary film "Blackfish" is prompting a California state lawmaker to propose legislation (Assembly Bill 2140) to ban the use of killer whales for entertainment. The bill's author says killer whales, or orcas, are too big and too intelligent to be confined in small tanks for their entire lives.
According to Dr. Naomi Rose, a marine mammal scientist with the Humane Society of the United States, the legislation is the first of its kind...
"And if passed, will prohibit the public display of killer whales in California and will retire those currently in the state in a less-stressful life in sea pens," she said. "It is the first step toward ending the global exploitation of a species that was never suited to live in our world."
"Blackfish" documents the death of a SeaWorld trainer killed in 2010 in Orlando and shows orcas being captured as infants from their families in the wild. SeaWorld disputes the allegations made in "Blackfish" and calls the film one-sided. SeaWorld spokeswoman Becca Bides criticized the bill, calling it severely flawed on multiple levels.
The film's director, Gabriela Cowperthwaite, has said her investigation into orcas in captivity was a real eye-opener. She said many observers attribute the instances of aggression against humans to whales being kept in unnatural settings.
"There's really no way that we can really give them even a fraction of what they need to thrive and survive in captivity," she said. "It's a bit heart-wrenching."
California Assemblyman Richard Bloom, who wrote the bill, said that in their natural habitat orcas are family-oriented, highly adaptable and trail only humans as the most intelligent creatures on this planet. He said his measure is not an attack on SeaWorld.
"A very small number of people have contacted me and suggested that this is somehow an effort to take down SeaWorld. It is absolutely not that," he declared.
The Orca Welfare and Safety Act would make it illegal to use wild-caught or captive-bred orcas for entertainment purposes.
More information on the measure, AB2140, is at leginfo.ca.gov. Audiofile.