03.17.17

Rep. Schiff Reintroduces ORCA Act to Phase Out Display of Captive Killer Whales

Federal Legislation Would Prohibit Breeding, Wild Capture, Import or Export of Species

Washington, DC – Today, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) introduced the Orca Responsibility and Care Advancement (ORCA) Act.  This legislation, first introduced last Congress, would phase out the captivity of orcas so that their display ends with this generation. Specifically, it would prohibit the breeding, the taking or wild capture, and the import or export of orcas for the purposes of public display. This legislation will also allow for the orderly phasing out of the display of this species, giving orca-holding facilities time to transition to a more humane future.

“Last year, SeaWorld made the voluntary and laudable decision to phase out orca captivity in its parks, but these changes need to be made permanent across the country not just at SeaWorld, but in all parks, said Schiff. “The ORCA Act would ensure that this is the last generation of orcas who live in captivity, and we will appreciate these incredible creatures where they belong – in the wild.”

The current global population of captive orcas has two sources – wild capture and captive breeding programs. Under current federal law, the federal government can issue permits for the capture or import of orcas for the purposes of public display. This is how, in the past, U.S. display facilities legally acquired orcas from the wild. While a wild capture of an orca has not occurred in U.S. waters since 1976, and wild-caught orcas from other parts of the world have not been imported since 2001, permits can still be issued legally. All other captive orcas have been bred in captivity. These practices would be prohibited under the ORCA Act. When this bill was first introduced in November 2015, there was no indication that captive orcas would be phased out absent Congressional action. However, after both political and public pressure, and the great progress made in the State of California, SeaWorld announced in March 2015 that they would voluntarily implement the steps put forth by this legislation. Rep. Schiff applauded this decision and urges the passage of this legislation to codify the changes.

This legislation is supported by the Animal Welfare Initiative, Humane Society Legislative Fund, Born Free USA, and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.  It was introduced with 15 co-sponsors, including Reps. Don Beyer, David Cicilline, Katherine Clark, Gerald Connolly, Rosa DeLauro, Suzan DelBene, Denny Heck, Jared Huffman, Derek Kilmer, Rick Larsen, Barbara Lee, Gwen Moore, Jared Polis, Adam Smith, and Jackie Speier.

###