CA Assemblyman Proposes New Bill Challenging SeaWorld Practices

The “Blackfish” documentary examines the background of killer whale Tilikum, the whale that grabbed and drowned SeaWorld trainer Dawn Brancheau after a show in February 2010

By Hetty Chang and Irene Moore
|  Friday, Mar 7, 2014  |  Updated 11:51 PM PDT
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The film

Hetty Chang

The film "Blackfish" chronicles the life of the killer whale that killed a Sea World trainer in Florida. Hetty Chang reports the film is the driving force behind a bill to make it illegal force whales into captivity in California for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on Friday, March 7, 2014.

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The controversial documentary "Blackfish" which exposes the alleged ill treatment of orcas, was one of the main factors that led a California lawmaker to introduce legislation to protect them.

Using the Santa Monica pier as his backdrop, Assemblyman Richard Bloom of Santa Monica introduced AB 2140, the Orca Welfare & Safety Act, which would end performance-based entertainment and captive breeding programs in California.

"There is simply no justification for the continued captive display of orcas for entertainment purposes," said Bloom who called the documentary "unquestionably important" during a news conference Friday.

If passed, the law would stop captive breeding, importing and exporting of orcas and end all orca performances in the state.

There are currently no laws prohibiting the captive display of orcas, according to a summary provided by Bloom's staff.

Supporters of the bill also spoke at Friday's news conference, including John Hargrove, a former SeaWorld orca trainer, who said he quit after 14 years.

"No matter what you say, how hard you fight, you cannot stop corporate SeaWorld from making these decisions," said Hargrove.

But current Sea World trainers, featured on the company's website defend the company and denounce Blackfish as deceptive.

In one interviewee said "One thing I want people to know after watching the movie is that it's not true."

In a statement, SeaWorld communications director Dave Koontz, said:

"While we cannot comment on Assemblyman Bloom's proposed legislation until we see it, the individuals he has chosen to associate with for today's press conference are well known extreme animal rights activists, many of whom regularly campaign against SeaWorld and other accredited marine mammal parks and institutions."

The statement goes on to say the company is "deeply committed to the health and well-being of all of our animals and killer whales are no exception."

Despite some reports, Bloom said this legislation is not an attack on SeaWorld nor is it an attempt to shut SeaWorld down.

"I think SeaWorld is a part of life for not just Californians and San Diegans but for people across the country," he said.

The bill is expected to be assigned to committee soon, according to Bloom.

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