Critical Bill That Would Prohibit Breeding, Importing & Exporting, And The Wild Capture Of Four Whale Species Is Introduced In The U.S.

Animal activists rejoice as the Strengthening Welfare in Marine Settings (SWIMS) Act was introduced last week. The legislation would phase out the captive display of orcas, beluga whales, pilot whales, and false killer whales. Specifically, it would prohibit the breeding, capturing in the wild, and the importing and exporting of these species for the purposes of public display.

The bill, that was introduced by Senator Dianne Feinstein and Representatives Adam Schiff, Jared Huffman, and Suzan DelBene, would be a huge step in the right direction. Unfortunately, though, it would not prohibit the continued holding of animals currently in captivity. Hopefully, this bill would urge marine theme parks and aquariums to finally transition to a more humane future.

Whales are complex social animals and are not suited for a life in captivity. When confined, they are prevented from carrying out natural behaviors, which include roaming up to 100 miles per day, hunting live prey, and interacting with their pod mates—who also suffer when pod members are removed.

“The science on these larger species strongly indicates that display facilities cannot provide enough space for them,” said Dr. Naomi Rose, Animal Welfare Institute’s marine mammal scientist. “These whales are simply too large and too wide-ranging for the concrete enclosures in which they are confined.”

The current global population of captive whales has two sources—wild capture and captive breeding programs. Historically, U.S. display facilities received permits from the federal government to capture whales or import wild-caught whales. While a wild capture of a whale has not occurred in U.S. waters since the 1970s, and wild-caught whales from other parts of the world have not been imported for 30 years, U.S. law still allows permits to be issued. These practices would be prohibited under the SWIMS Act.

In a separate action in November, Schiff, Huffman, DelBene, and Feinstein led 31 colleagues in urging the U.S. Department of Agriculture to take immediate steps to update decades-old handling and care standards for captive marine mammals to reflect the latest science. Updated standards may improve the welfare of smaller, more adaptable marine mammals; however, no amount of regulatory reform can ensure that whales thrive in captivity.

With more people waking up to the cruelty behind captivity, it is time to preserve these beautiful marine animals by no longer enslaving them, and instead, protecting them in their natural habitats.

To find out more information about the SWIMS Act, CLICK HERE!

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