End of Orca Captivity in SightSupport the ORCA Act
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The end of orca captivity has suddenly transitioned from a distant hope to an attainable reality, and all thanks to landmark legislation introduced recently. In November, 2015, Rep. Adam Schiff introduced a bill to phase out the captivity of orcas. This bill, the Orca Responsibility and Care Advancement (ORCA) Act, amends the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 to prohibit the breeding, wild capture, and import and export of orcas for public display and other purposes. The bill allows both time for businesses to phase out orcas on display, and to adjust their business models, and additionally ensures that the captivity of orcas ends with this generation.
There are many serious threats to the health and well being of orcas in captivity. The stress, boredom, and unnatural living conditions result in the majority of captive orcas dying before reaching age 25, while their wild counterparts live for 30-50 years. Orcas in the wild can swim 100 miles a day, and dive to depths of 300 feet, while captive orcas are confined in shallow tanks as small as 60 by 80 feet wide . As a result of the repetitive swimming patterns and constant exposure to surface waters necessitated by this type of confinement, all captive male orcas have fully collapsed dorsal fins – a condition this is exceedingly rare in the wild. Furthermore, captive orcas face threats from mosquito-borne illnesses, dehydration, and sun damage – issues that are virtually non-existent for orcas in the wild.
Despite these major threats to the health and happiness of captive orcas, the imprisonment is still legally viable according to current federal law. The federal government can issue permits allowing for the capture and import of orcas for display purposes. Although the wild capture of orcas in U.S. waters has not occurred for many years, orcas continue to be bred into captivity either through artificial insemination or physical mating, both of which would be banned by the ORCA Act. Without such legislation, there is no end in sight to the tragic cycle of captivity for orcas. While other charismatic mammals have received increased protections, such as the retirement of dolphins by the National Aquarium or the retirement of elephants by the Ringling Bros. Circus, no such actions have been proposed for captive orcas. This legislation may be their only hope.
To read the ORCA Act bill, click here.
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