Historic Orca Captivity Bill Becomes Law in California

In March 2014, California Assemblymember Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica) introduced into the California Assembly AB 2140—a bill to prohibit the breeding of captive orcas and their use in theatrical shows in the state and require their retirement to a sanctuary. AWI, a cosponsor of the legislation, testified in favor of the bill at the hearing in the Committee on Water, Parks, and Wildlife, where it received strong support.

The political climate was not yet ripe for passage, however, and the bill was tabled for “interim study.” AWI, other NGOs and activists, and Asm. Bloom’s office worked hard in 2015 to gather additional support and determined that removing the sanctuary provision—given that no orca sanctuaries yet exist—would improve the bill’s chances.

In March 2016, the modified bill was reintroduced as AB 2305, on the same day SeaWorld announced the end of its captive orca breeding program. SeaWorld San Diego's president, John Reilly, stood by Asm. Bloom and confirmed SeaWorld would not oppose the bill this time around. After sailing through the committee with 12 ayes and only 1 nay, AB 2305 passed the Assembly with a 48–28 floor vote. It then passed the Senate 26–13 on August 26. Governor Jerry Brown signed the bill into law on September 13. AWI hopes this ground-breaking state law becomes a legislative tipping point, with Florida and Texas—the other states currently with captive orcas—to follow.