California’s Orca Whales Undermined For Control
The federal laws regulating the facilities housing orca whales now are known as the Marine Mammal Protection Act and the Animal Welfare Act. Under both acts, a breeding facility for orca whales must be at least fifteen feet long and forty feet wide horizontally. The size of the pool must also be carefully monitored to ensure that it does not fall under any legal restrictions. The size and shape of the pool must also comply with local building requirements. There are also strict rules about keeping the animals from other animals.
There are many areas in Hawaii where orca whales could be held in captivity. One of these is the Peacock Islands where the animals are protected by the Marine Mammal Protection Act and there are strict rules about keeping the animals. A few islands have become popular places to hold captive orca whales because of their shallow waters and abundance of food. However, most scientists agree that it is in the best interest of the orca whales to be returned to the sea. They would rather spend their lives in the ocean than in cramped conditions in a tank or boat.
There are other locations throughout the world, however, that are not so fortunate. There is the premise of marine mammal captivity in Canada. Even though it has been illegal to attempt to relocate these animals in the past, it has become possible due to changes in the law. In 2021, the federal government began offering subsidies to industries that wanted to be able to help in the reduction of killer whale populations. This meant that fishermen were given permits to capture and keep alive a certain number of cetaceans.
Although this helped to reduce the problem a bit, it did not solve the problem of keeping whales and dolphins in captivity. The government later introduced legislation that would make it illegal to hunt or harm any marine mammal except for those that were already endangered or on the threatened species list. Part of this law is also intended to allow for the public display of cetaceans and other marine mammals. It is hoped that this will reduce the need for captures and allow for a greater chance for people to see these creatures up close.
The proposed California bill makes it possible for anyone who wants to be able to display marine mammals in California to do so. However, anyone caught violating the law could be subjected to stiff penalties. It is not uncommon for state wildlife officials to seize marine mammal exhibitions from their owners, even if they have obtained legal licenses. If caught in the act of displaying these creatures, the operator can be fined up to $50 and even receive criminal charges. If the bill becomes law, owners of marine mammal displays will no longer need to obtain a permit.
The reason that the California bill is being considered now is because of the ongoing crisis in the Pacific northwest. Killer whales have been spotted in Oregon, Washington State, and British Columbia. These orca whales, which can grow to over one hundred feet in length, are considered by scientists to be in immediate danger of extinction. The orcas were close to extinction in the past but were saved from near extinction thanks to an annual breeding program by the National Marine Fisheries Service. If the California bill becomes law, it will be illegal to exhibit these orca whales in captivity anywhere in the state. The bill is expected to be passed into law during the upcoming session.
Orca whales live in two distinct environments. While they breed in areas where there is enough food and air and their numbers are stable, they do travel into nearby waters in preparation of spawning season. Over the past couple of decades, California has allowed people to capture and keep marine mammals in captivity, even if they weren’t breeding. However, it was only in very small enclosures that the animals were kept, such as aquariums. This year, after seeing the devastating effects of keeping the orca whales in small pens, state officials began investigating whether these marine parks were legal. Now, the law is set to make it mandatory that all marine parks keep at least twenty percent of their whales in captivity.
A new addition to the law would also make it illegal to capture or or blackfish for purposes of trade. Orcas are valuable to marine parks because they are one of the only species to survive solely on fish. When blackfish are improperly harvested, they have to be destroyed, causing great stress to the area. The trade in blackfish is also a controversial issue in the United States, so this could be easily addressed during negotiations. The International Trade Commission introduced a proposed bill that would ban the practice of catching blackfish with baited nets; however, that proposal has yet to gain any traction. Regardless, California will most likely be the next state to introduce a ban on capturing blackfish with baited nets.