Could SeaWorld Orlando Be Affected by California's Orca Ban Bill?
The recent proposal out of California to ban orca whale shows, particularly at SeaWorld San Diego, is the only such legislation being discussed anywhere in the country.
But depending on where the legislation goes, Florida's SeaWorld and even the Miami Seaquarium could be affected as well.
California Assembly Member Richard Bloom introduced the Orca Welfare & Safety Act. If it were to pass, the proposal would make it illegal to breed orcas in captivity or to move their sperm or eggs across state lines. It would also make it illegal to capture orcas for entertainment purposes or make them perform for people.
Although this law would apply only to California, the ripple effects could be felt all the way down here, where SeaWorld operates in Orlando and makes its orca shows a central part of its business.
According to some legal experts, this law could get passed.
On law professor says that the right to own wild animals has always been regulated one way or another and that SeaWorld's eventual cry of having its constitutional rights being violated could be shot down.
"I am not sure on what basis anyone claims that this violates the federal constitution," says Kathy Hesslerlaw professor and director of the Animal Law Clinic at Lewis & Clark Law School. "I suppose that [SeaWorld] might argue that it is a taking of property that requires compensation, but I think that is weak."
There is no such legislation in the works here in Florida. But if California were to pass Bloom's proposal, you'd have to imagine at some point Florida would be forced to get on the ball as well.
And not just SeaWorld Orlando would get the shaft but the Miami Seaquarium as well.
Back in January, the National Marine Fisheries put the Seaquarium's 40-year-old orca, Lolita, on a protected orca population list. Lolita could also eventually be put on the group's endangered species list, which would make it illegal for the park to have her perform.
Florida has never been a state that blazes trails, but it has, at times, gotten with the program. Other stuff has had to happen first for legislators to get moving, but eventually, the Sunshine State gets with it. Be it taking a look at gun laws or allowing medical marijuana, sooner or later, Florida does things that the rest of the country does first.
And that's just fine. If Bloom's legislation goes through and California becomes the first state to ban orca captivity, you can bet some lawmaker here will follow suit. Book it.
Meanwhile, since Bloom introduced his bill on Friday, SeaWorld has seen its shares sink as much as 7 percent.
Bloom's proposal and the support it's receiving is yet another blow to SeaWorld following the release of the documentary Blackfish.
The documentary, which features several former SeaWorld trainers and exposes the park's inhumane practices with orcas, has been the reason multiple popular musical artists canceled gigs at SeaWorld last month.
The film chronicles how the park gets its killer whales by separating mothers from calves. The doc also shows how the whales are kept in small, cramped tanks and how at least one whale, a bull orca named Tilikum, was abused by other orcas while in the tanks. Tilikum eventually ended up killing three people over the years, including trainer Dawn Brancheau in 2010. According to the film, he is now kept in isolation at SeaWorld.
SeaWorld itself has been busy fighting back through news releases and posting its own facts on its website.
And, with Bloom's proposal getting the proper headlines throughout the weekend, the park has also responded to that via a statement:
"The premise behind this proposed legislation is severely flawed on multiple levels, and its validity is highly questionable under the United States and California Constitutions," SeaWorld said in a statement. "We trust that our leaders who are responsible for voting on this proposal will recognize the clear bias of those behind the bill."
If the bill passes, SeaWorld in San Diego would be screwed. And the effects would very likely trickle over to Florida's park.
But if it fails to pass, SeaWorld can line itself up another lavish party with live penguins!
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss New Times Broward-Palm Beach's biggest stories.