Capitol Alert

Will new California budget ban orca’s captivity?

Sea World San Diego visitors get a closeup view of an orca whale on Aug 14, 2014. A budget bill approved by the Assembly would prohibit orcas in captivity for entertainment purposes.
Sea World San Diego visitors get a closeup view of an orca whale on Aug 14, 2014. A budget bill approved by the Assembly would prohibit orcas in captivity for entertainment purposes. Los Angeles Times

A ban on orcas in captivity is part of the state budget package making its way through the Capitol – or maybe not.

Thursday, the day after passing the main budget legislation, the Assembly approved a natural resources budget “trailer bill” that includes a provision with the new restrictions on the highly intelligent killer whales.

The Senate, though, did not take up its version of the resources bill, which lacked the whale provision.

The episode marks the latest orca-related effort in Sacramento since the 2013 release of “Blackfish,” which suggested that SeaWorld’s raising of whales in captivity and showcasing them in public performances led to mistreatment and put trainers at risk.

The San Diego tourist attraction and its supporters dismissed the film as propaganda, and a bill prohibiting whale shows stalled in 2014. Last fall, though, SeaWorld announced plans to phase out the performing whales and a halt to captive breeding.

The provision in the resources budget bill that passed the Assembly would essentially put the SeaWorld plan in state law. It would make it illegal to have an orca in captivity for any purpose, including for display, performance or entertainment purposes. It also would restrict the movement of orcas in the state to other states or countries. Violators would face fines of up to $100,000.

The wording is similar to that in AB 2305, by Assemblyman Richard Bloom, D-San Monica, who leads the Assembly’s resources budget subcommittee.

It’s unclear how the two houses will resolve the orca issue, with Assembly and Senate representatives saying little as talks continue. More budget-related votes are expected next week.

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