Strengthening Welfare in Marine Settings (SWIMS) Act (Federal) ​

H.R.7145/ S.3694


February 26, 2024

Work Type




​​The Animal Legal Defense Fund​ supports ​this bill.

​Sponsors:​ Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Reps. Adam Schiff (D-CA), Jared Huffman (D-CA), and Suzan DelBene (D-WA)
​Introduction Date:​ January 30, 2024

The Strengthening Welfare in Marine Settings (SWIMS) Act (H.R. 7145/S.3694) would end the exploitation and mistreatment of orcas, beluga whales, pilot whales, and false killer whales held in captivity by amending the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) to prohibit the taking, importation, or exportation of these species for the purpose of public display. There is an exemption in the legislation for animals being transported to a sanctuary setting or being released into the wild. The SWIMS Act also amends the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) to prohibit any breeding of these species for future public display.

Whales are highly intelligent, emotional, and socially complex animals capable of problem-solving, intentional communication, and forming lifelong bonds. In captivity, whales are unable to fully express their natural behaviors, resulting in physical, emotional, and psychological issues that often lead to shortened lifespans. Growing scientific evidence, public awareness, and advances in technology have led to a shift in attitudes and policies surrounding the captivity of large whales.

Similar legislation has been passed at the state level and in other countries. In 2016, California passed the Orca Protection Act, which phases out the captivity and breeding of orcas and their use in entertainment. This legislation codified what SeaWorld has pledged via corporate policy. In 2019, Canada enacted the Ending the Captivity of Whales and Dolphins Act. This law phases out the captivity of whales, dolphins, and porpoises for public display and entertainment.

​​Why is this law important? Animals conscripted into being entertainers lead lives of misery and indignity. Travel, confinement, and being forced to perform tricks deprive wild animals of anything that might satisfy their complex physical, behavioral, and emotional needs. Their lives constitute abuse as entertainment. These animals have few legal protections, and even those few protections are not adequately enforced. This need for stronger legal protections is clear.

​​Coalition Support: ​Animal Welfare Institute, Born Free USA,, Cetacean Society International, CompassionWorks International, the Dolphin Project, Earth Law Center, Four Paws USA, the Humane Society Legislative Fund, the Humane Society of the United States, International Marine Mammal Project of the Earth Island Institute, Last Chance for Animals, Michelson Center for Public Policy, Oceanic Preservation Society, Origami Whales Project, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, the Performing Animal Welfare Society, Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, Project O, Whale and Dolphin Conservation, the Whale Sanctuary Project, World Animal Protection

For more information about animal protection legislation at the federal level and opportunities to take action for animals, visit

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