Proposed ban on orca shows at SeaWorld stirs anger in San Diego


SAN DIEGO -- A bill by a Santa Monica assemblyman that would ban orca shows at SeaWorld is being blasted in San Diego, home of the marine theme park.

SeaWorld expressed doubt about the legality of the legislation.

“The premise behind this proposed legislation is severely flawed on multiple levels, and its validity is highly questionable under the U.S. and California constitutions,” the park said in a statement.


Others said the ban would hurt the local economy.

“SeaWorld is a critical part of San Diego’s economy,” said San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, a Republican who made job growth a key part of his recent campaign. “In addition to drawing thousands of tourists to San Diego each year, it is also a leader in maritime and wildlife conservation.”

Of the bill sponsored by Assemblyman Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica), Faulconer said, “I think there are much more pressing issues in Sacramento to address.”

In an editorial, the U-T San Diego called the bill “ridiculous” and “almost beyond belief.”

Assemblyman Rocky Chavez (R-Oceanside) immediately opposed the bill. “I cannot support legislation that will take away from our region’s unique identity and will undoubtedly cost us jobs and tourism.”

City Council President Todd Gloria said that while he supports the humane treatment of animals, “SeaWorld San Diego is a key city partner and a great contributor to our region, and I support its ongoing operation.”

SeaWorld San Diego has 2,500 employees in the winter and up to 4,500 during the summer. The park paid more than $14 million last year in rent to the city. By some accounts, the park attracts more than 4.4 million visitors a year, even more than the San Diego Zoo.

Although the park has numerous exhibits of sea animals, a roller-coaster, a children’s play area and other features, the orca shows at Shamu Stadium remain the marquee attraction.

Bloom’s bill would ban the use of orcas for “entertainment or performance purposes” and also prohibit captive breeding of orcas, also known as killer whales.

As state legislation, the bill would apply only to the San Diego park, the only park in the state with orca shows.

“These beautiful creatures are much too large and intelligent to be confined in small, concrete pens for their entire lives,” Bloom said at a news conference in Santa Monica.

The bill is supported by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and the director of the documentary “Blackfish,” which is highly critical of the use of orcas at SeaWorld parks and centered on the 2010 drowning death of a trainer at the park in Orlando, Fla.

Bloom is a first-term legislator representing a district that includes Bel-Air, Beverly Hills, Hollywood, Malibu, Santa Monica, West Los Angeles and West Hollywood. He is chairman of the Assembly budget subcommittee on natural resources and transportation.

SeaWorld is in the district of Assemblywoman Toni Atkins, set to become Assembly speaker in the summer.

In a statement, Atkins said, “I have not seen the bill yet, but I respect my colleague and value what SeaWorld does economically and scientifically for our region. I will carefully consider all the issues and opinions surrounding this legislation.”