Florida Orca Protection Act Talking Points

While you’re rallying support for the Florida Orca Protection Act, some fellow Floridians may have some questions about the Act and about SeaWorld.

Be prepared by reviewing—and even printing—these talking points that can help you explain why this legislation is so important.


Talking Points:

  • This bill is modeled on the California Orca Protection Act:
    • Like the California law, the Florida bill will make it illegal to:
      • Hold orcas in captivity for any purpose (grandfathering those already in captivity in Florida as of a date TBD);
      • Breed captive orcas; and
      • Transport captive orcas out of Florida, unless provided by federal law or rehome to sanctuary.
    • Also like the California law, the Florida bill will require that orcas held for rehabilitation or research purposes be returned to the wild whenever possible; no orca may be used for breeding, performance, or entertainment even if reintroduction to the wild is impossible.
  • The bill is uncontroversial: it merely codifies SeaWorld’s corporate policy:
    • SeaWorld announced in November 2015 that it would phase out theatrical orca performances and replace them with “natural orca encounters” that emphasized education and conservation; this shift was to become effective in California in 2017, and in Florida in 2019.
      • Acknowledging the time it will take SeaWorld to retrain the orcas in Orlando, this bill makes Jan 1, 2019 the deadline
    • SeaWorld announced in March 2016 that it would end captive breeding throughout its facilities.
    • SeaWorld didn’t oppose the California Orca Protection Act because it understood that the law imposed no new obligations on them; however, during the 2017 legislative session, SeaWorld stated it would oppose the Florida Orca Protection Act, taking a position that is inconsistent and hypocritical, casting doubt on commitment to their own corporate policy.
      • SeaWorld’s lobbyist has insisted that the Florida effort is “offensive” to SeaWorld and might jeopardize the recovery of their stock value, exhibiting a misplaced and illogical concern that codifying corporate policy in another state’s law will harm the company when hypocrisy is the far greater risk.
  • The California bill enjoyed broad support, as does the proposed Florida bill:
    • Assemblymember Richard Bloom spearheaded the California effort and the bill passed with bipartisan support in both chambers of the California legislature (as part of an omnibus Public Resources bill).
    • A broad coalition supports the Florida Orca Protection Act, including numerous local and national environmental, marine conservation, and animal protection groups, many of which helped pass the California Orca Protection Act.
    • The coalition also includes orca researchers and former orca trainers, many of whom are eager and willing to testify in support of the bill.
    • The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission supports the proposed bill, and Florida lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have expressed commitment to sponsoring, co-sponsoring, or supporting it.
  • SeaWorld is not the only entity in Florida housing orcas.
    • Miami Seaquarium holds captive the solitary orca Lolita, captured from the waters off Puget Sound in 1970 when she was young; she lives without orca companionship in the smallest tank in the nation, smaller even than the federal Animal Welfare Act minimally requires.
    • However, this law will hardly impact the Miami Seaquarium: it has already phased out theatrical performances in favor of educational shows, and Lolita’s advanced age makes her infertile and therefore unaffected by a prohibition on captive breeding.
  • All orcas suffer severe deprivation in captivity:
    • At best, captive orcas survive only as well as endangered and threatened wild orcas living in degraded habitat. Their survival to age milestones, including sexual maturity and menopause, is poor.
    • Infections are the most common cause of death for captive orcas, likely resulting from immunosuppression caused by chronic stress and possibly exacerbated by poor dental health.
    • Broken and worn teeth from chewing and gnawing on steel gates and concrete walls, as well as tooth “flattening” and “drilling” performed on the orcas for veterinary purposes, subject orcas to stress, pain, and infection; such dental problems are rare among wild orcas.
    • Social isolation, separation from family units, and grossly suboptimal “habitats” (concrete tanks) cause emotional, psychological, and physical distress among captive orcas; incompatibility is common among captive orcas, who behave more aggressively toward each other than they do in the wild; captive females likewise exhibit abnormal behavior toward their calves more frequently than do their wild counterparts.

 

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