Lawmakers Table Bill to Stop Killer Whale Shows

A California bill that sought to end killer whale shows at SeaWorld San Diego and phase out orcas in captivity has been put on hold, meaning it's dead for the year.

The Parks and Wildlife Committee held the first hearing for AB2140 Tuesday morning. At the hearing, the bill's author, Democrat Richard Bloom of Santa Monica, agreed to revisit his proposal after further study.

Bloom says lawmakers weren't ready to vote on the bill and that the discussion to date has been fueled by fear and misinformation.

The bill was inspired by the 2013 documentary "Blackfish." The filmmakers argue that captivity and mistreatment of orcas make them aggressive and has led to attacks on trainers. The bill's backers say killer whales are too large and intelligent for captivity,

SeaWorld says the animals are well-treated and help conservation through research.

Besides ending killer whale shows, AB2140 would have also banned captive breeding and the import and export of killer whales. Under the measure, SeaWorld would have kept its 10 orcas in a large sea pen until they died.

"If these whales had to move to a sea pen where we can’t control the quality of the water, the temperature of the water, the level of the water, not to mention all the diseases that live in the ocean, that would be possibly, potentially life-threatening," former trainer Kyle Kittleson told NBC 7 Tuesday.

In a statement released Tuesday, Chamber of Commerce President and former San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders applauded the committee's decision to table the bill. Sanders called SeaWorld a "pillar" of San Diego's economy.

"We work hard every day at the Chamber to create jobs and expand our economy. SeaWorld is an integral part of the San Diego community because of the research efforts they lead and the jobs that they create," he said in the statement.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) released its own statement. PETA President Ingrid E. Newkirk said although the bill is stalled for now, the issue is still alive.

"The public has learned how orcas suffer psychologically, succumb to premature deaths, and lash out in frustration and aggression in SeaWorld's orca pits, and they've responded with lower attendance levels, public protests, and legislation," Newkirk said in the release.

Dozens of animal rights activists packed the hearing room to support the bill, which will not be taken up again until possibly sometime next year.

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