A California bill that sought to end killer whale shows at SeaWorld in San Diego and phase out their captivity was put on hold Tuesday, dousing an escalating fight between animal activists and supporters of the major tourist attraction.
The bill's author, Democrat Richard Bloom of Santa Monica, agreed during the bill's first hearing before the water, parks and wildlife committee to revisit his proposal after further study. As a result, AB2140 is dead for this year and the soonest lawmakers could vote on the proposal would be mid-2015.
"It's unfortunate that much of the conversation has been fueled ... by fear and invective and misinformation," Bloom said. "It's clear that many committee members are simply unprepared to make a decision on the bill."
Bloom was inspired by the 2013 documentary "Blackfish" in which filmmakers argue that captivity and mistreatment of orcas make the animals aggressive. It examined the events leading to the 2010 death of trainer Dawn Brancheau in SeaWorld Orlando when the whale Tilikum pulled her underwater.
John Hargrove, a former SeaWorld trainer in Texas and San Diego who appeared in "Blackfish," told lawmakers at the hearing that orcas appeared agitated and dragged him underwater multiple times reported by the Associated Press.
The bill would have banned the import, export and breeding of orcas while requiring SeaWorld San Diego to move its 10 killer whales out of tanks and into larger sea pens.
Witnesses for the marine park said that was not a viable option, and SeaWorld lobbyist Scott Wetch told lawmakers the bill would have likely resulted in the orcas being moved to parks outside the state.
Public outrage over the movie drove 1.2 million people to sign a petition that was delivered Monday to the Assembly by three elementary school students who successfully stopped an overnight school field trip to SeaWorld.