Sea World San Diego managed to persuade California lawmakers Tuesday that their highly intelligent killer whales are happy and enjoy water sports.
Sea World San Diego told state legislators that a bill engineered by Richard Bloom, (D-Santa Monica), which aims to outlaw orca performances, would result in harmful financial consequences for the park and for San Diego as a whole. The orca shows are among the park’s most popular attractions.
Bloom, along with 14 other state lawmakers that comprise the Water, Parks and Wildlife Committee, want to place captive orcas in more natural sea pens that would still be accessible to the public, but would eliminate the popular whale shows. The Santa Monica lawmaker admits that their effort is partly driven by the documentary Blackfish.
The documentary suggests Sea World’s method of raising whales in captivity and making them perform “circus tricks” is harmful to the whales compared to living in their natural habitat. Moreover, Blackfish also argues the shows put trainers in danger.
According to Naomi Rose, a marine mammal scientist with the Animal Welfare Institute, the sea pens would “provid[e] the orcas with a dramatically improved quality of life” and “provide members of the public with legitimate educational experiences by exposing them to orcas in a natural setting, rather than in a concrete tank performing what amounts to a circus act.”
Lindy Donohue, the park’s supervisor of animal training, couldn’t disagree more. She insists that the orcas would much rather be in the show and love performing. “They are so stimulated every day, they want to interact with us, and the level of care is so high it’s almost hard to describe.”
Sea World also claims that Blackfish is blatantly misleading and inaccurate. Jerry Sanders, San Diego’s former mayor, contends that the city of San Diego would face serious financial impact in the local area and would suffer a loss of jobs if the whale shows was eliminated.
Those arguments appear to have prevailed, as the legislature tabled Bloom’s motion–for now.