A new bill introduced in the Florida House of Representatives proposes to statutorily ban the breeding and shows of orcas throughout the entire state. The legislature, House Bill 1305, would make it illegal to hold orcas in captivity for entertainment purposes, starting in July 2018.
The Florida Orca Protection Act was introduced on January 9th, on the first day of the 2018 legislative session, by Rep. Jared Moskowitz, D-Coral Springs, Miami Herald reports. According to Moskowitz, his bill was joined by a companion bill in the Senate, sponsored by Sen. Darryl Rouson, D-St. Petersburg.
As specified in the bill, any orca kept in the state on July 1, 2018, would be allowed to stay in captivity, for entertainment purposes, until December 31, 2019, and could only be used thereafter for “educational presentations only.” Moskowitz defined this as live displays that provide “science-based education to the public” and include “natural behaviors, enrichment, exercise activities and live narration and video content, a significant portion of which features orcas in the wild.”
Lori Marino, the president of the Whale Sanctuary Project, points out that the bill is a step in the right direction, but the seeming loophole in its differentiation between entertainment and education should not be overlooked. “It is a gray area,” Marino said. “One would have to define what entertainment is versus an educational display.”
The bill comes nearly two years after SeaWorld announced that it was going to stop breeding orcas in its facilities – and Florida aims to hold the park to its word, as well as introduce a clear regulation in case of future orca captures carried out by other companies. In addition to applying to the orcas being held at SeaWorld Orlando, this legislation would also include Lolita, the orca who has been living alone in the smallest orca tank for the majority of the 44 years she has been held at Miami Seaquarium. This overarching bill would solidify the Miami Beach Commission’s resolution to release Lolita and be in line with the Miami Beach’s Mayor’s call to send her back to the Northwest where she belongs.
Similar legislation has been in the works for California for years, so we look forward to watching the progress of this bill (and hopefully, the removal of the educational clause). A ban on captive breeding and shows could mean a definitely brighter future for the species as a whole, and bring us all closer to the day when we finally empty the tanks!
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