A bill has been introduced into the United States Congress to prevent the future capture and breeding of whales for public display and thus, over time, to end the exploitation of whales in entertainment parks and aquariums.
The Strengthening Welfare in Marine Settings (SWIMS) Act would amend the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 to prohibit the taking, importation, or exportation of orcas, beluga whales, pilot whales and false killer whales for the purpose of public display. It further amends the Animal Welfare Act to prohibit any breeding of these species for future public display.
The bill also specifically allows exemptions for animals being transported to a sanctuary setting or released to the wild.
The SWIMS Act was introduced by Reps. Adam Schiff (D-Calif), Jared Huffman (D-Calif.), Suzan DelBene (D-Wash.) and Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and is co-sponsored by Reps Carolyn B. Maloney (D-N.Y.), Rick Larsen (D-Wash.), Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.), Tony Cárdenas (D-Calif.), and Alan Lowenthal (D-Calif.).
“Whales are among the most intelligent, fascinating, and beautiful creatures in the world,” said Rep. Schiff. “And they deserve to live freely in their natural habitats – not in captivity where their lives are defined by the four walls of a concrete tank.”
SeaWorld announced in 2016 that it would stop breeding whales and that those now in captivity will be its last. “The federal government should expand on this example,” said Senator Feinstein, “and prohibit all new captive whales for purposes of entertainment.”
The Whale Sanctuary Project has formally endorsed the SWIMS Act. “We are very pleased to be supporting this bill,” said Dr. Lori Marino, President of the Whale Sanctuary Project. “Whales are among the most cognitively complex of all animals. Confining them to life in a concrete tank is truly unbearable for them.”
Other organizations endorsing the SWIMS Act are the Animal Welfare Institute, Animal Defenders International, Born Free USA, Nonhuman Rights Project, Michelson Center for Public Policy, Cetacean Society International, Compassion Works International, Earth Island Institute, Endangered Species Coalition, FOUR PAWS USA, Oceanic Preservation Society, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, Performing Animal Welfare Society, and Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine.
Three years ago, Canada passed the Ending the Captivity of Whales and Dolphins Act, which phases out the captivity of all cetaceans (whales, dolphins and porpoises) in Canada, except for rescues, rehabilitation, licensed scientiﬁc research, or cetaceans’ best interests. At a webinar last month, Dr. Marino brought together some of the people who worked on that bill for a discussion of whether such a bill could be passed in the United States.
“It took four years of hearings and debates in the Canadian Parliament,” she noted. “But the final vote in the House of Commons was overwhelmingly in favor. Now we have the opportunity to end captivity of whales in the United States and we thank Rep. Schiff and his colleagues, and we look forward to a time when all orcas and beluga whales who are on display in the United States have been retired to sanctuaries.”
Here is the full text of the SWIMS Act:swims_act