California,United States (Sputnik) – The move follows sustained outrage over the treatment of the animals at SeaWorld theme parks.
Governor Jerry Brown signed Assemblymember Richard Bloom’s groundbreaking California Orca Protection Act into law on Tuesday, and it will go into effect in 2017.
The new legislation does not require parks to get rid of their captive orcas, but they may only be used for educational presentations and can no longer be used for theatrical presentations or breeding.Those who do not comply may face a fine of up to $100,000.
The law allows for the rescue of killer whales for rehabilitation, but encourages their release if and when it becomes possible to do so safely.
Following Brown’s signing of the bill, SeaWorld released a statement claiming that they are “excited.”
“We are excited to move forward with these new, inspiring, natural orca encounters beginning next year at SeaWorld San Diego. These presentations will reflect the natural world and will focus on the research, education, care and respect that align with our mission to advance the well-being and conservation of these beautiful creatures,” the park’s Wednesday statement read.
SeaWorld stated that they will not release the 11 whales currently captive at their San Diego park, claiming that their natural habitat would be too dangerous for them because of pollution.
“Most of SeaWorld’s orcas were born in human care and the environmental threats in our oceans, like oil spills and pollution, are huge dangers for these animals,” SeaWorld stated.
In October 2015, California banned the breeding of orcas at the San Diego SeaWorld as part of the Orca Responsibility and Care Advancement Act, introduced by Representative Adam Schiff. SeaWorld filed a lawsuit in response. In a major turnabout in March, SeaWorld announced that they would no longer breed orcas in their California park. An accompanying statement by SeaWorld CEO Joel Manby stated that the new policies were a direct response to intense protests as well as negotiations with the Humane Society.
“The Society’s attitude toward these very, very large, majestic animals under human care has shifted for a variety of reasons, whether it’s a film, legislation, people’s comments on the Internet,” said Manby.
The admission that widespread protests were effective is a sharp change from the previous month, when it was learned that SeaWorld sent undercover employees to infiltrate activist groups.
This report prepared by Sputnik News.