A California lawmaker's proposed bill that seeks to ban orca performances at SeaWorld has sparked a heated debate regarding the issue. San Diego mayor Kevin Faulconer has also weighed in on the issue in favor of continuing the SeaWorld orca shows.
California state assemblyman Richard Bloom proposed the bill in response to a controversial documentary produced by CNN called "Blackfish." The documentary shows footage of the allegedly cruel treatment of killer whales in SeaWorld's facilities.
"As a state we should lead the way in ending captivity for entertainment purposes and should be ensuring our current captive population general welfare needs are taken care of, and that we end any future captivity whether it be by capture or captive breeding programs here in California," said Bloom in his proposal. "Many scientists agree holding orcas captive have no conservation benefits for orcas in the wild and have only advanced captive breeding techniques with debatable success."
In response to Bloom's proposal, Faulconer has also weighed in on the matter with concerns about the possible effects of the banning of orca performances to the economy of San Diego. Many San Diego residents depend on the shows for income and employment.
SeaWorld San Diego employs up to 4,500 people during peak season and the park generates millions of dollars in revenues for the city. In terms of rent alone, SeaWorld paid the city of San Diego a total of $14 million for the year 2013.
"SeaWorld is a critical part of San Diego's economy," said Faulconer. "In addition to drawing thousands of tourists to San Diego each year, it is also a leader in maritime and wildlife conservation." In Faulconer's recent campaign, the Republican politician put a clear focus on improving local employment.
SeaWorld has also reacted to the proposed bill as well as the content of "Blackfish." The marine theme park said that the current issues are founded on inaccurate reports about how the park and its employees treats their captive orcas. The park is also questioning the legality of Bloom's proposal.
"The killer whales in our care benefit those in the wild. We work with universities, governmental agencies and NGOs to increase the body of knowledge about and the understanding of killer whales - from their anatomy and reproductive biology to their auditory abilities. Some populations of wild killer whales have been classified as endangered or threatened, demonstrating the potential critical nature of these research opportunities," said SeaWorld in an open letter.