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Burbank Lawmaker Pushes For End To Killer Whale Shows At SeaWorld

LOS ANGELES ( — A San Fernando Valley lawmaker is calling for the gradual phase-out of the practice of keeping orca whales in captivity.

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank) introduced federal legislation Friday that would prohibit breeding, capturing, and importing or exporting orcas for the purposes of public display.

If passed, the Orca Responsibility and Care Advancement (ORCA) Act (PDF) would also allow for the "orderly phasing out" of orca-holding facilities, according to officials.

Under current federal law, the federal government can issue permits for the capture or import of orcas for the purposes of public display.

Orcas - more popularly known as killer whales - have been the subject of controversy ever since the 2010 death of trainer Dawn Brancheau, who was drowned by an orca at SeaWorld Orlando.

SeaWorld was cited for violating federal safety workplace following an investigation into Brancheau's drowning that found the park had exposed its trainers to recognized hazards when working in close contact with orcas during performances.

Animal rights activists have long contended that orcas are much too large and too intelligent to be confined in small, concrete tanks.

Schiff told KNX 1070 NEWSRADIO the legislation is aimed at getting SeaWorld and other animal theme parks to recognize the animals' true value.

"These are majestic creatures that simply don't do well in shallow pools, they're meant to roam hundreds of miles," said Schiff. "I think it affects them deeply and adversely, and I think we have enough evidence of that now."

SeaWorld released a statement dated Nov. 6 that read in part: "Through conservation work, rescue efforts and significant contributions towards advancing scientific understanding of orcas and other marine mammals, SeaWorld is a leader in protecting and preserving these species."

The proposed legislation comes as the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is currently considering updating decades-old federal regulations for captive marine mammals.

A similar bill introduced in 2014 in Sacramento that sought to end killer whale shows at SeaWorld was put on hold amid fighting between animal activists and supporters of the major tourist attraction.

(TM and © Copyright 2015 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2015 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)


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