Senator Cathleen Galgiani (D-Stockton) has introduced The Dolphin Protection Act, Senate Bill 1405 in California. This landmark legislation would make it unlawful to hold, breed, import or export a cetacean, such as a whale or dolphin in captivity for display, performance or entertainment purposes.
The legislation provides for a phasing out period, giving cetacean holding facilities time to transition to a more humane future.
The bill would also allow for cetacean holding facilities to rescue and rehabilitate stranded animals with the goal of returning them to the wild. The bill is sponsored by Animal Hope in Legislation.
Dolphins and whales are unique when it comes to captive wildlife because of their ocean habitat.
In the wild, they swim long distances, dive deeply and live in complex and tight-knit family structures.
Captive enclosures cannot simulate the complexity of the ocean and coasts, with enclosure sizes generally less than one-ten thousandths of 1 percent of their natural habitat range.
“Society’s attitudes about keeping certain animals in captivity has changed,” said Marc Ching Founder of Animal Hope in Legislation.
“We cannot continue to bring whales and dolphins into captivity where they will spend their entire lives in a concrete tank. California is a leader in animal welfare policy and thanks to Senator Galgiani’s bill, many of these animals will be able to stay where they belong, in the wild.”
After humans, dolphins are thought to be the most complex species on the planet. Only in species like dolphins, great apes, and humans do we find brain complexity, social complexity, and ecological complexity closely linked.
Dolphins have emotions and personalities. They are able to experience a broad spectrum of emotions including joy, grief, frustration, anger, and love. They have the same neurons that humans do that are linked to intuition and empathy.
“We should not rely on cruel and inhumane treatment of any creature simply for our entertainment,” said Senator Galgiani.
“Dolphins are incredibly intelligent beings that suffer a range of health problems and stress as a result of being held in captivity.”
In 2016, the Legislature passed a bill that banned the captivity and breeding of orcas. Within the United States, South Carolina has laws to prohibit the display of cetaceans.
Internationally, Canada banned captivity of all cetaceans in 2019, France and Mexico in 2017 and India in 2013. Countries such as Brazil, Nicaragua, and Norway have strict standards in place making it impossible to keep cetaceans in captivity.