Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown of California has signed legislation that would ban the breeding of orca whales in the state and using them for theatrical shows.
The new law codifies SeaWorld’s plans to discontinue its controversial orca practices and will hold the company legally accountable to follow through on its word.
On Sept. 13, Brown announced he had signed SB839, also known as the California Orca Protection Act, which will make it illegal in California to breed orcas, also known as killer whales, in captivity or to use them for entertainment purposes.
Violators of the breeding provision would be punished with a fine of up to $100,000, according to The Associated Press.
SeaWorld San Diego, the corporation’s California amusement park, had already announced it would discontinue its breeding program and phase out orca shows.
“We are listening to our guests; we’re evolving as a company; we’re always changing,” announced SeaWorld CEO Joel Manby in November 2015, according to USA Today.
The California Coastal Commission had already declined to give SeaWorld permission to continue breeding orcas. The corporation has faced intense scrutiny for its orca program following the 2013 documentary “Blackfish.”
In March 2016, SeaWorld announced it would be ending its breeding practices and theatrical shows with orcas in all of its parks across the U.S.
SeaWorld San Diego will debut a new attraction at the start of 2017, when it will exhibit the 11 orcas it currently has in an educational setting. The California Orca Protection Act will go into effect in June 2017.
The bill was authored by Democratic state Assemblyman Richard Bloom of Santa Monica.
“Very pleased to announce that my law protecting #orca from captive breeding in California was signed by [Jerry Brown] today,” Bloom tweeted out, KSWB reports.
SeaWorld communications director David Koontz issued a statement asserting the corporation did not have a position on the new law.
“SeaWorld ended its orca breeding program effective March 17 and will replace all its theatrical killer whale shows with educational orca encounters starting in San Diego next year,” Koontz said.
The orcas that are currently in captivity in SeaWorld San Diego will not be released.
“Most of SeaWorld's orcas were born in a zoological setting and the environmental threats in our oceans, like oil spills and pollution are huge dangers for these animals,” Koontz added. “The best, and safest, future for these whales is to let them live out their lives at SeaWorld, receiving top care, in state-of-the-art habitats.''