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Lawmaker Wants To Ban Orcas At San Diego's SeaWorld

A trainer feeds killer whales ice chunks in a tank at SeaWorld in San Diego in this undated photo.
Sandy Huffaker/Barcroft Media
Barcroft Media /Landov
A trainer feeds killer whales ice chunks in a tank at SeaWorld in San Diego in this undated photo.

A California lawmaker has proposed a measure that would prohibit SeaWorld San Diego from using orcas in its shows.

Richard Bloom, a Santa Monica Democrat, says the documentary Blackfish, which examines the 2010 death of a SeaWorld trainer who was killed by a captive orca, inspired him to push the bill.

Blackfish, which premiered at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival, also highlights other incidents in which trainers were either hurt or had close calls with orcas, also known as killer whales. The filmmakers detail what they say are cramped living conditions for the marine mammals, the centerpiece of SeaWorld's acrobatic shows.

"There is no justification for the continued captive display of orcas for entertainment purposes," Bloom said Friday. "These beautiful creatures are much too large and far too intelligent to be confined in small, concrete tanks for their entire lives."

SeaWorld Entertainment, the parent company that also runs parks in Orlando, Fla., and San Antonio, Texas, has called Blackfish "propaganda," saying "the film conveys falsehoods, manipulates viewers emotionally and relies on questionable filmmaking techniques to create 'facts' that support its point of view."

The company says Blackfish gives the false impression that conditions at the parks are harmful to whales and trainers, and also that SeaWorld has covered up information related to fatal 2010 training mishaps.

The New York Times reported last month that:

"Blackfish has become a rallying point for those who oppose the use of killer whales for entertainment in the SeaWorld parks, and it has drawn large audiences in theaters and on TV. But SeaWorld has defended its practices, mounting an aggressive pushback against the film.

"The company continued its counterattack with a complaint delivered ... to the Labor Department. It accuses the official examining an orca's 2010 fatal attack on a SeaWorld trainer of ethical violations, including leaking confidential documents to the makers of Blackfish."

On Monday, The Associated Press said the film's director, Gabriela Cowperthwaite, issued a statement to the news agency denying the Labor Department investigator ever provided information related to the investigation.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Scott Neuman is a reporter and editor, working mainly on breaking news for NPR's digital and radio platforms.