In October the California Coastal Commission ruled to ban orca breeding at the SeaWorld San Diego theme park.
In an expected move last week SeaWorld sued California authorities in an effort to overturn the decision. Filed in San Diego Superior Court, the lawsuit argues that the California Coastal Commission exceeded its authority when it imposed the breeding restriction, arguing that it does not have jurisdiction over the marine mammals, currently regulated under federal law.
SeaWorld San Diego has been embroiled in a public relations nightmare since the release of the documentary, “Blackfish,” in 2013, which brought unprecedented public attention to what critics charge as the marine park’s inhumane treatment of orca whales in captivity.
Since the Orca breeding ban ruling came down in October, SeaWorld San Diego has announced that it’ll end its signature killer whales show by 2017. The theme park plans to introduce a new kind of orca show, one that is less dependent on Shamu whales performing tricks. Instead, the relaunched show will be more “informative” and will place these whales in a more natural setting.
But what will happen to the 11 Orca whales currently living in captivity? Some argue that the whales should be released into the wild, while others like Naomi Rose, marine mammal scientist for the Animal Welfare Institute, disagree. Rose says that these whales have been in captivity for too long and should not be released because they are not fit to live their lives independent from their caretakers.
Grey Stafford, Ph.D., Director of Conservation at the Wildlife World Zoo and Aquarium in Phoenix, AZ. He is the incoming president of the International Marine Animal Trainer’s Association, which represents some 2,000 animal trainers around the world
Naomi Rose, Ph.D. Marine Mammal Scientist at the Animal Welfare Institute, an animal rights organization based in DC