A Washington state lawmaker is proposing a preemptive ban on using dolphins and whales for entertainment in the state.
Sen. Kevin Ranker has introduced SB 5666, which would prohibit capturing or importing into the state a wild-caught or captive-bred whale, dolphin or porpoise with the intention to use it for performance or entertainment purposes.
The bill would not apply to facilities that are temporarily holding an animal for rehabilitation or research purposes.
"We have no whales or dolphins or porpoises in captivity in Washington state right now but it's something brought to my attention by a pilot of a Kenmore Air flight who was flying me home to Orcas (Island) and she raised the issue," said Ranker, who represents the 40th District.
"I represent San Juan Islands and we have our resident orcas. I think there's a better way to view these animals, and that's in the wild," said Ranker.
"These are incredibly intelligent species that live in a family structure similar to our own," he said. "It's really sad to look at the situation of what happens to these animals when they are in captivity."
SeaWorld has come under increasing scrutiny for its orca shows, and last year announced that they would be building larger tanks for the whales at their animal-themed parks.
"Think about our southern resident population," said Ranker. "These are animals that are known to swim from here to southern California and back. These are extremely social creatures and we're putting them in a little fish tank."
Ranker said his research into the issue found that the average whale in captivity lives 19-49 years, while wild whales live into their 70s to 80s.
"One of ours - 'Granny' - is 102 right now," he said.
"The more I get into this, the more I think about it, the more I think this bill has to pass. It's exceptionally important bill and Washington state has to get in front of this."
SB 5666 is scheduled for public hearing in the Senate Committee on Natural Resources & Parks at 1:30 p.m. Thursday. Ranker said he found out Monday that SeaWorld will send people to attend the hearing.
"I find it amazing that Sea World is flying a plane load of folks up here to testify against this bill.," he said.
"They have no holdings in Washington state, they are worried about precedent. They're worried about the bill being replicated in other states. I would like them to stay out of Washington state," he said.
"Fourteen countries have outlawed the display of orcas and dolphins – I think Washington getting in front of it is a good thing."