May 29th, 2014
04:40 PM ET
9 years ago

After 'Blackfish,' lawmakers urge action to protect orcas

(CNN) - Over three dozen members of Congress want the government to ensure the humane treatment of orca whales and other marine animals in captivity, following an outcry sparked by the documentary "Blackfish."

The letter, released Thursday and signed by 37 Democrats and one Republican to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, cites outdated regulations protecting those sea mammals and asserts that the current rules don’t reflect “updated science."

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The documentary recounts the 2010 death of veteran SeaWorld trainer Dawn Brancheau by a killer whale, challenging the concept of keeping these whales for entertainment. Nearly 21 million people watched "Blackfish" when it aired on CNN in October and, since then, a firestorm of debate over the controversy has erupted.

"This situation has garnered great attention by the general public, especially with the release of the documentary film ‘Blackfish’ that calls into question the feasibility of keeping orcas humanely in captivity due to the enormous physical and psychological impact on orcas kept in confinement and regularly required to perform for the public,” the letter said.

“Sound, modern science should inform our regulations on marine mammal captivity,” Reps. Jared Huffman and Adam Schiff, Democrats from California, said in a statement. “Unfortunately, USDA has refused to act for nearly two decades, endangering humans and orcas alike."

The lawmakers assert that during a 2002 public comment period, the USDA received numerous recommendations for larger tank size and facility improvements, none of which have been adopted over a decade later.

CNN's Dana Davidsen and Deirdre Walsh contributed to this report.

Filed under: Congress
soundoff (20 Responses)
  1. Sniffit

    I fail to see what this has to do with Bryndon Tully.

    May 29, 2014 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  2. Gurgyl

    --any time you lack respect, it will happen proving seven states draught, world wide shortage of water, heat is huge, so protect environment, wild life, please. Donate wild life federation, cierra club.

    May 29, 2014 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  3. Thomas

    The letter, released Thursday and signed by 37 Democrats and one Republican to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, cites outdated regulations protecting those sea mammals and asserts that the current rules don’t reflect “updated science."


    Who was the one republican who sold out to progressive , socialist , environment , mind control ?

    Rick Perry is inviting all Orcas to move to Texas where it's all about job growth , less taxes and less environmental red tape. .

    May 29, 2014 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
  4. ThinkAgain: Don't like Congress? Get rid of the repub/tea bag majority.

    Our family visited Sea World two summers ago and while it was amazing to see the Orca show, I couldn't help but feel sorry for these huge creatures held captive in such small confines.

    Better to keep more of them alive in the wild so people can see them than keep a few in captivity.

    May 29, 2014 05:16 pm at 5:16 pm |
  5. Rick McDaniel

    Humans using wild creatures for their personal entertainment, and exploitation, is a very ugly business.

    May 29, 2014 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  6. Sniffit

    "Humans using wild creatures for their personal entertainment, and exploitation, is a very ugly business."

    I guess you guys will have to Free Rushy then. Swim free, hateful whale, swim free....

    May 29, 2014 05:37 pm at 5:37 pm |

    Should our representatives in Congress first protect veterans coming back home from war? Smh.

    May 29, 2014 05:51 pm at 5:51 pm |
  8. Greg

    SeaWorld and all of these marine parks are so outdated. Zoos have gotten rid of their cages years ago. Time for Sesworld to enter the 21st century.

    May 29, 2014 06:05 pm at 6:05 pm |
  9. Curvybabe

    Watch The Cove!! And Blackfish.. Captivity Kills .. They swim hundreds of miles a day in the wild.. Their very social mammals and stay together in pods for life.. The Chorline in these pools./tanks alone eat their skin and burn their eyes.. No animal should have to perform tricks for their food. They should all be set free..

    May 29, 2014 06:12 pm at 6:12 pm |
  10. LIndsey

    This news is huge for the movement to end cetacean exploitation. The USA is behind the times, and we need to work on this issue now. I'm so happy congress is experiencing an awakening.

    May 29, 2014 06:21 pm at 6:21 pm |

    I think orphans with no hope of rehab to the wild is fine at sea world well if your dumb enough to kiss one . Expect the worse and hope for best .

    May 29, 2014 06:41 pm at 6:41 pm |
  12. AWright

    congress should protect all its citizens and protect animals from it's ill-advised citizens. They should be able to ensure both.

    May 29, 2014 06:54 pm at 6:54 pm |
  13. Smitty

    In the 60 s our jr high tried to petition sea world against animal abuse, where the hell have you people been. We were arrested for protesting without a license, knew than how screwed up cali would become. Pelosi anyone, I rest my case.
    got to love dems response throw more money at it !!! LOL

    May 29, 2014 07:28 pm at 7:28 pm |
  14. Kay

    How the hell does this have anything to do with the vets?
    At least if you join the military it's your choice! Orcas don't have a damn choice. Dumbass! @southern hottie

    May 29, 2014 07:56 pm at 7:56 pm |
  15. Liz the First

    Holding these super-intelligent beings in captivity to perform for us is very akin to slavery! if they were free to come and go as they pleased, they might still choose to come and entertain us and we should be grateful. humans need to get over the horrible conceit that we are the only beings on this planet who matter.

    May 29, 2014 08:07 pm at 8:07 pm |
  16. Thomas


    The military " Navy " used to use whales for target practice .

    The U.S. Navy used Killer Whales as target practice in 1956, killing hundreds of Orcas. There WAS NO Sea World then.

    May 29, 2014 08:19 pm at 8:19 pm |
  17. Lois Lane

    Good! It's about time they got their freedom and yes, we can help them and veterans at the same time.

    May 29, 2014 08:29 pm at 8:29 pm |
  18. Marcia Moore

    Lolita was ripped from her mother and has live in the smallest tank in the country, the Seaquarium for 45 years. This old marine park (circus) falls way below what the Animal Welfare Act requires and has for years. So there's no enforcement for the safety of these Orcas. Having pimped this beautiful creature over 40 yrs, set her free. Keeping them in captivity is archaic, with HiDef documentaries, movies, a vacation to the coast see the real deal in their natural habitat. Everything man touches he manages to screw up. Free them and free up some VA officials who have also screwed our Vets out of getting the timely help that would have saved their lives!

    May 29, 2014 09:07 pm at 9:07 pm |
  19. Mai Bige Johnson

    Screw saving the economy! Save the whales!

    May 29, 2014 11:13 pm at 11:13 pm |
  20. Marie MD

    Keep them in the wild but we have to protect them against killing them by countries like Japan and others who just don't care about the balance of nature.
    @Sniffit, good one! 🙂 Rushy could be the one that we just couldn't save (or cared enough) from the Japanese whalers.

    May 30, 2014 06:40 am at 6:40 am |