Following in the footsteps of the California Legislature, the Florida House of Representatives is seeking to implement a statewide ban on orca shows and breeding of the killer whales. The move comes about two years after SeaWorld announced that it would cease both activities at its facilities.
The Florida Orca Protection Act, introduced Tuesday by Rep. Jared Moskowitz, D-Coral Springs would statutorily ban the breeding or shows of killer whales throughout the state.
Moskowitz said the bill was joined by a companion bill in the Senate sponsored by Sen. Darryl Rouson, D-St. Petersburg, the Miami Herald reported. However, no companion bill was found on the Senate’s website as of Wednesday evening, according to the newspaper.
House Bill 1305 makes it illegal as of July 2018 to hold orcas in captivity for the purpose of entertainment. The bill adds that any orca located in the state on July 1, 2018, would be allowed to continue being held in captivity for entertainment purposes until December 31, 2019. After that point, the killer whales “may be used…for educational presentations only.”
In terms of what constitutes an “educational presentation,” Moskowitz says it would be a live display that provides “science-based education to the public” and includes “natural behaviors, enrichment, exercise activities and live narration and video content, a significant portion of which features orcas in the wild.”
Animal rights activists remain skeptical of the educational loophole in the bill.
The president of the Whale Sanctuary Project described the bill as a good step but expressed concern about the bill’s distinction between entertainment and education.
“It is a gray area,” she said. “One would have to define what entertainment is versus an educational display.”
In September 2016, California Governor Jerry Brown signed into law the Orca Protection and Safety Act, which banned the breeding of killer whales in captivity and made it illegal to continue the circus-like shows in which the whales perform for crowds.
As a result of that law, the only orcas allowed to be in captivity in California are the 11 that were grandfathered in at Sea World San Diego before the bill was signed.
Like the language in the Florida bill, California’s law allows for continued orca shows if they are educational. SeaWorld had already agreed to stop breeding their orcas in all of their U.S. parks.