by Michelle Moons
SACRAMENTO – A Blackfish bill was tabled by the California legislature earlier this year, and now the filmâ€™s controversial accusations against Sea World are rippling through Congress.
Two members of Congress have gathered 40 signatures calling on the USDA to renew research regarding captivity of marine mammals, and the House of Representatives has approved funding for development of new rules through an amendment to an existing appropriations bill.
Last March, California State Assemblyman Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica) introduced Assembly Bill 2140 in committee, which would prevent using an â€œorca for performance or entertainment purposes,â€ captive breeding, or capture or import of an orca intended to be used for performances. Though the bill has been stalled in committee, Bloom has plans to bring a replacement bill next year according to a San Diego Union-Tribune report.
Potential penalties written into Assembly Bill 2140 include fines up to $100,000 and up to six months in prison.
But Bloomâ€™s bill isnâ€™t the only political response to the controversial film. U.S. Reps. Adam Schiff (D-CA) of Burbank and Jared Huffman (D-CA) of San Rafael have secured $1 million in federal money, the Union-Tribune reported, for the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service to provide more research on captive marine mammals.
An approved amendment to a House appropriations bill would â€œrequire the Department of Agriculture to create new rules reducing the amount of noise whales are exposed to, limit programs where the public is allowed to swim with dolphins and regulate the temperature of the water in the tanks where the animals are held,â€ reported Reuters. That report also stated that passage of the appropriations bill is unlikely.
A letter written to USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack, and authored by Schiff and Huffman is referred to as bipartisan due to one Republican Representative, Walter Jones of North Carolina, who signed on along with 39 Democrats. The letter, dated May 29, called on the USDA to prioritize regulations for captive marine mammals immediately in light of the Blackfish film. Huffman posted the letter to his Congressional website.
In a statement to the Los Angeles Times, SeaWorld representative Becca Bides said those who planned to attend the announcement of Bloomâ€™s bill in Santa Monica last March are â€œwell known extreme animal rights advocates.â€ Two former SeaWorld employees who took part in the film, Bridgette Pirtle and Mark Simmons, have spoken out against the agenda-driven nature of the film.