California bans orca breeding
California Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill Tuesday that bans the breeding of killer whales and holding them in captivity. VALERY HACHE/AFP/GETTY IMAGES

California Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill Tuesday banning the breeding of killer whales and holding them in captivity. The law, which goes into effect in 2017, is the first of its kind in the country.

The California Orca Protection Act follows the years of controversy surrounding the use of killer whales or orcas for human entertainment. According to the new legislation, those whales already in captivity can remain in the state but can only be used for “educational presentations” and not for theatrics.

The law was authored by California Assembly member Richard Bloom and allows the rescue of killer whales for rehabilitation, their use for research and encourages the release of the whales back to the wild, if possible.

The law bans the breeding of orcas and their use for entertainment. Offenders can face a fine of up to $100,000.

The practices that the new law bans were in use at SeaWorld Entertainment Inc., which has a park in San Diego. SeaWorld had released a statement last month saying that the bill tracks with its March announcement that the park would no longer have theatrical shows featuring orcas and that it is ending orca breeding in California. It added that the 11 orcas at SeaWorld will remain where they are in San Diego.

“Most of SeaWorld’s orcas were born in human care and the environmental threats in our oceans, like oil spills and pollution, are huge dangers for these animals. The best, and safest, future for these whales is to let them live out their lives at SeaWorld in state-of-the-art habitats, and continue to receive the highest-quality care based on the latest advances in marine veterinary medicine, science and zoological best practices,” the statement, released on Aug. 30, read.