What was once a massive source of tourist revenue for the state of Florida has only drawn more and more scrutiny recently, and it looks like that scrutiny might lead to an outright ban.
For decades now, orca whales (also known as "killer whales") have been a popular attraction in Florida, especially at the SeaWorld amusement park, where they're trained to perform shows for an adoring crowd. However, thanks to recent information revealed documentaries like Blackfish and other leaked facts about the park, it has come to light that these creatures are being kept in some pretty horrific conditions.
In response, SeaWorld officially announced last year that it would stop breeding orcas in their facilities, but for some people that wasn't enough. The orcas are still being trained to perform for food (and are denied it when they don't perform), and plenty of folks are demanding an end to this, as well as the official outlawing of orca breeding.
Well, it looks like their wish might be granted: the Florida House of Representatives has tabled a bill that would outlaw both the breeding of orcas and the performance of orca shows entirely...
The state of California actually introduced similar legislation years ago, which served as the inspiration for the one in Florida. According to the Miami Herald:
"House Bill 1305 would make it illegal, beginning in July 2018, to hold an orca in captivity for entertainment purposes. It goes on to say that any orca located in the state on July 1, 2018, would be allowed to continue being held in captivity for entertainment purposes until December 31, 2019 — 'and may be used thereafter for educational presentations only.'"
SeaWorld is arguing that the bill is unnecessary, saying that:
“Given we’ve already made this change, the legislation is unneeded and distracts from the great work being done to positively impact Florida’s wildlife,” the company said in a statement. “We look forward to continuing our work with the Florida legislature, and conservation leaders throughout the state, on meaningful conservation and animal welfare initiatives.”
But Rep. Jared Moskowitz, who first tabled the bill, said it was important to hold SeaWorld accountable and draw a line in the sand in the event of future orca captures by other companies.
“I applaud them for their efforts, but they didn’t do that voluntarily, they did that because the public demanded them to do that and the business model has changed,” he said.