In a solid strike against the increasingly unpopular marine amusement parks, the state of California has ruled that SeaWorld will no longer be able to breed, trade, sell or transfer orcas kept in captivity. The vote gathered over 600 people both in support and against SeaWorld at the hearing in Long Beach, California. Both sides provided passionate speeches, but ultimately California became the first of 50 states to ban the practice of breeding orcas, meaning the 11 orcas at SeaWorld San Diego will be the last kept in captivity in California.
This ban came as a compromise by the California Coastal Commission who proposed the ban on orca breeding in exchange for approving a $100 million expansion of the orca tanks at SeaWorld in San Diego. This new expansion will nearly double the current enclosure space for San Diego SeaWorld's 11 orcas.
Obviously, this was a popular decision among animal rights activists. However, in the wake of backlash from the controversial Blackfish documentary, many organizations, including People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) would like to see more done. PETA spokesperson Ben Williamson states, “SeaWorld has admitted that it intended to breed even more orcas to fill the new tanks, but the commission's action today ensures that no more orcas will be condemned to a nonlife of loneliness, deprivation and misery. SeaWorld is a sea circus, and the orcas are its abused elephants.”
In further statements, Williamson and other supporters call for SeaWorld to stop building tanks and instead return the remaining whales to coastal sanctuaries so that they can “have some semblance of a natural life.” Unfortunately, SeaWorld supporters argue that keeping orcas in captivity allows the marine park to teach larger audiences about the importance of conservation and the preservation of their wild counterparts. While the crowd may still be split on this important issue, with this compromise it seems that both sides have won - for now.