Federal ORCA Act Introduced

On November 6, 2015, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) announced that he would introduce the Orca Responsibility and Care Advancement (ORCA) Act. With eight original cosponsors, the ORCA Act (HR 4019) takes a long-overdue step: it would prohibit the breeding, wild capture, import, and export of orcas for the purpose of public display. It allows for the orderly phasing out of orca exhibits—giving facilities time to transition to a more humane future but ensuring that public display ends with this generation of captive orcas. The inherent adverse welfare implications of confinement in concrete tanks of these complex, intelligent, and highly social marine mammals has been evident for many years, but it took the film Blackfish to push it firmly to the fore of the public’s consciousness. Current US law is simply not up to the job of sparing orcas from a life of deprivation: The federal government is still allowed to issue permits for the wild capture or import of orcas for public display. And while the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) is on the verge of updating its decades-old regulations for marine mammal exhibits, no state of captivity, however well regulated, allows orcas to thrive. As Rep. Schiff noted at his press conference, “The evidence is very strong that the psychological and physical harm done to these magnificent animals far outweighs any benefits reaped from their display.”

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