Please Attend the Hearing on HB 2888, a bill to ban cetacean captivity!


None needed at this time.


The hearing on HB 2888 went well. After strong testimony in favor and none in opposition, the committee voted on it in executive session on February 4 and it passed with a simple majority. It should now go to the floor for a full House vote.

Please Attend the Hearing on HB 2888, a bill to ban cetacean captivity! - Photo from Flickr Christine ADear Washington Humanitarian,

Captures of wild orcas for sale to facilities to display them for entertainment or performance purposes began in Washington in 1964. The period in the 1960s and 1970s when orcas were frequently captured in Puget Sound for sale to captive display facilities is a troubling era in Washington's history. Dozens of orcas were traumatized and some even killed during these violent captures, with families broken up and an entire generation taken for our entertainment. The orcas in Puget Sound have struggled to recover. In 2005, they were declared endangered.

In 2015, a bill was introduced in the Washington Senate to ban the captive display of whales, dolphins, and porpoises (collectively known as cetaceans). Although there are currently no captive cetaceans in Washington, the bill provided the opportunity to make a powerful statement to the nation and the world that the capture era is well and truly over and that Washington is committed to ensuring it never returns. The bill received a hearing in the Senate in February 2015, but did not proceed out of committee.

Now Representative Kevin Van de Wege has taken up the banner and introduced HB 2888 which would

  • prohibit holding cetaceans in captivity for performance or entertainment purposes;
  • prohibit the breeding of cetaceans in captivity for any purpose; and
  • not affect the ability to hold cetaceans in captivity for the purposes of research, rescue, rehabilitation or release. If permanent maintenance in captivity is necessary for a stranded, rescued cetacean, then it could not be held for performance or entertainment purposes and could not be bred.

HB 2888 was introduced on January 25 with multiple cosponsors. A hearing is scheduled for Tuesday, February 2, in the Committee on Agriculture and Natural Resources. The legislative session in Olympia is short this year—it will end on March 10. The Senate companion bill, SB 6582, may be heard soon, as well.

What You Can Do:
Please attend the hearing to show your support for HB 2888 and Rep. Van de Wege! The hearing will begin at 10:00AM, February 2, and will be held in the John L. O'Brien Building at the State Capitol.

Suggested talking points:

  • A growing number of jurisdictions (at the municipal, county, state, and national levels) are enacting regulations or passing legislation to limit or prohibit cetacean captivity for performance or entertainment purposes. This bill would ensure that Washington remains current with this progress, rather than lag behind.
  • The cetacean species typically held in captivity worldwide are wide-ranging, deep-diving, long-lived, intelligent, highly social predators. Analysis of mammal species held in zoos and aquariums indicates that these characteristics—particularly wide-ranging behavior—result in poor adaptation to confinement.
  • Compared to wildlife species with small home ranges, captive cetaceans—particularly the larger species such as orcas and belugas—demonstrate poor survivorship, poor birth rates, and high occurrence of neurotic behaviors (aka "stereotypies").
  • It is difficult to impossible for most zoos and aquariums to provide conditions that allow cetaceans to mate naturally and give birth and nurture offspring readily. Consequently, several species, such as belugas, have been unable to sustain their populations in captivity through captive breeding.
  • Captures of live cetaceans from the wild continue globally, even if the purpose of some captures is merely to provide new genetic material (i.e., sperm for artificial insemination) to the captive breeding programs of facilities that otherwise do not take animals from the wild. Therefore, permitting the captive display of cetaceans, even those that are captive-born, contributes to the capture of wild cetaceans.
  • Most zoos and aquariums with performing captive cetaceans misrepresent the species' natural history and biology. The public is told that captive cetaceans live longer than wild cetaceans, are performing natural behaviors in shows, and live in natural, functional social groups—none of which is accurate. Therefore, the educational value of cetacean performances is poor and may even harm conservation efforts for these species.

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