Yaas! Californians are officially chanting ‘FREE WILLY’ after Governor Jerry Brown signed legislation that will essentially outlaw all orca breeding and captivity programs- like those controversially run by SeaWorld theme parks.
The bill will also ban killer whales being used in performances for entertainment purposes and stipulates that starting in June next year, orcas in captivity can only be used for “educational presentations”.
The law will most significantly apply to SeaWorld San Diego, a park featured predominantly in the 2013 Orca-rights documentary Blackfish.
Blackfish exposed and uncovered the controversial practices of capturing young orcas in the wild and raising these vastly intelligent, social creatures in cruel and cramped conditions. It also shone a light on the 2010 death of veteran trainer Dawn Brancheau and the tragic plight of killer whale Tilikum.
Under the new law, violators can be fined up to $100,000 dollars.
The legislation encourages returning the whales, where possible, back into the wild, however SeaWorld San Diego said that they plan to retain the 11 whales under its care.
“Most of SeaWorld’s orcas were born in a zoological setting and the environmental threats in our oceans, like oil spills and pollution are huge dangers for these animals,” they said. “The best, and safest, future for these whales is to let them live out their lives at SeaWorld, receiving top care, in state-of-the-art habitats.”