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What it is, what it means, and what you can do about it
New York Senator Greg Ball (R, C, IP) 40TH SENATE DISTRICT Greg Ball may have walked into a David vs. Goliath situation when on February 12th, 2014 he proposed Bill S6613-2013 which “Prohibits the possession and harboring of killer whales in aquariums and sea parks.”
For the first time, a State will consider making it illegal to keep Orca in captivity
The precedent is arguably the most important single step against Marine Mammal captivity since the Blackfish movie hit the scene, and inspired Balls law. Nearly instantaneously SeaWorld ads started airing on New York state television programming. There is no doubt that the $10mil SeaWorld spends in lobbying Washington D.C., will quickly be re-routed and lobbyists mobilized in the halls of the New York State Senate.
To garner support for the passage of the bill, a petition was presented and can be found here. In addition, the Senator intends to garner support in person with constituents at the NYS Animal Advocacy Day on May 24th, 2014. The Facebook page for the event can be found here.
What the proposed law means to Orca, Marine Parks and the display industry
It is a stroke of genius to pass this law in a State that as of now does not have any Orca in captivity. There is little public sentiment in the state that would oppose it. The precedent then could be followed in other States that also do not have captive Orca on display, and state-by-state sweep the nation culminating in Florida. There is rumor that another state may not be far behind with similar proposed legislation. It would not be hard to imagine this law following States as they legalize Marijuana.
A by product of the media coverage surrounding the bill will be enhanced awareness that there is even a debate taking place regarding Aquariums featuring captive Orcas doing tricks. Although over 20 million people have watched Blackfish and the public sentiment is turning, millions more will be exposed to the conversation as this bill and others like it are discussed in big Media.
Why just Orca?
Many activists would like to see the language changed from ‘Orca’ to ‘Cetacean’. This would cover Dolphins as well, and the ‘White is the new Black’ whale, the Beluga. Along with SeaWorld, the GA Aquarium is appealing an NOAA denial of an import permit for 18 Beluga that were wild caught in Russia. Because Beluga do not stir the same emotional outpour that Killer Whales do, this effort to capture and hold captive more of them has flown largely under the radar. It is highly possible that while in committee, the language of the bill could be changed to encompass all Cetaceans. If not done in New York with this bill, certainly it could be proposed in the States to follow.
What the Public can do to support the Bill
During a phone call with a staffer I was told that the Animal Advocacy day is very important to the success of the bill. Additionally, Senator Ball tweets “Get the word Out”.
- Advocates in the State of New York can get organized and begin contacting their representatives, especially those who are a member of the NY Senate Environmental Conservation Committee where the Bill will be discussed. Call, write and Email the representative of your area and voice your support of the bill.
- Plan and organize outreach and education events, poster and flyer campaigns
- For those advocates that are not from New York state, there is an opportunity to raise this issue in the Media by calling on them to report on the story by using Twitter, email and phone calls to let them know that people are interested in the topic.
- Conservancy groups, scientists and biologists expert opinion letters, white papers and testimony will be needed to arm the Senator with the independent data he needs to battle SeaWorld lobbyists. It is important to recognize what pro-captivity statements will be made, and what is the most valid, scientifically supported and convincing argument can be made to those anticipated topics.
- Continue to share this article on Twitter and Facebook to bring awareness and educate those that have not considered the captivity debate by clicking on the ‘share’ icon of your choice below this post.
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