May 29, 2014 –
(CNN) – Over three dozen members of Congress want the government to ensure
the humane treatment of orca whales and other marine animals in captivity,
following an outcry sparked by the documentary “Blackfish.”
The letter, released Thursday and signed by 37 Democrats and one Republican
to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, cites outdated regulations protecting
those sea mammals and asserts that the current rules don’t reflect “updated
The documentary recounts the 2010 death of veteran SeaWorld trainer Dawn
Brancheau by a killer whale, challenging the concept of keeping these
whales for entertainment. Nearly 21 million people watched “Blackfish”when
it aired on CNN in October and, since then, a firestorm of debate over the
controversy has erupted.
“This situation has garnered great attention by the general public,
especially with the release of the documentary film ‘Blackfish’ that calls
into question the feasibility of keeping orcas humanely in captivity due to
the enormous physical and psychological impact on orcas kept in confinement
and regularly required to perform for the public,” the letter said.
“Sound, modern science should inform our regulations on marine mammal
captivity,” Reps. Jared Huffman and Adam Schiff, Democrats from California,
said in a statement. “Unfortunately, USDA has refused to act for nearly two
decades, endangering humans and orcas alike.”
The lawmakers assert that during a 2002 public comment period, the USDA
received numerous recommendations for larger tank size and facility
improvements, none of which have been adopted over a decade later.