California Forces SeaWorld To Free Willy

(REUTERS/Mike Blake)

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Andrew Follett Energy and Science Reporter

SeaWorld won’t be allowed to display or breed captive orca whales, according to legislation signed Tuesday by California’s Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown.

Starting in June 2017, the state will only allow SeaWorld to use orcas in captivity  for “educational presentations,” banning any entertainment use of the whales. The legislation will effectively shut down one of SeaWorld San Diego’s main attractions.

SeaWorld already announced in March that it planned to end its controversial orca whale breeding program, and that the whales currently residing at the amusement parks will be the last generation of orcas.

SeaWorld has not collected an orca from the wild in 40 years, and many of its current whales were born in captivity. SeaWorld claims that since its remaining orcas have never lived in the wild, they could not survive in the open oceans.

The theme park’s treatment of orcas was highlighted in the 2013 documentary “Blackfish,” which focused on a series of violent incidents involving an orca named Tilikum. The film also questioned ethical practices of the theme park’s breeding program, such as the separation of calves from their mothers.

SeaWorld compiled 69 factual objections to the film and has called it “false and misleading.”

Blackfish’s official Twitter account celebrated the California decision by tweeting “HUGE NEWS! California is the first state to ban orca breeding and performances.”

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