Freedom for Orcas

March 10, 2014

Orca Photo: Carrie Vonderhaar, Ocean Futures Society

The most complex marine species on the planet, they are our counterparts in the sea….killer whales or orcas.

An animal as social, dynamic, and intelligent as the orca deserves its natural right to roam the sea freely. Who are we to imprison such majestic creatures for our own entertainment? The time has come to view captivity of orcas as a part of our history – not a tragic part of our future.

I congratulate California for its leadership in addressing this issue. A California state legislator has proposed a new bill, AB 2140 that would ban the captivity of killer whales for entertainment in California. This is landmark legislation calling for comprehensive improvement to orca protection laws in California. If it passes, this law will end performance-based entertainment for all killer whales in California, captive breeding programs and the export and import of reproductive samples, and the import and export of orcas within the state.

Orca Photo: Carrie Vonderhaar, Ocean Futures Society

"It is time that we embrace that the long-accepted practice of keeping orcas captive for human amusement must end," state Assemblyman Richard Bloom, a Democrat from Santa Monica, said at a press conference last Friday at the city's oceanfront pier.

For me, it’s been my dream for decades to make it illegal to capture any orcas anywhere for any reason. We will do everything we can to assist the decision makers to pass this historical bill, AB2140 and to make sure this paves the way for the freedom of orcas all around the world.

Orca Photo: Carrie Vonderhaar, Ocean Futures Society

Based on my personal experience with orcas in the wild and my observations of these magnificent animals in captivity, I believe there is no justification for allowing them to be used as performers in theme park shows and that breeding them in captivity to sustain a captive population solely for entertainment and profit is unacceptable. The concept of watching orcas perform tricks in theme parks is anti educational and is inhumane.  These are animals that live in family pods for their whole lives with life spans similar to our own.  Capturing orcas for entertainment and profit forces them to live in artificial families, in spaces that are insufficient, and rewards them with food for doing tricks they do not do in the wild.

Today, we have the interactive film and video technology to show orcas in the wild to audiences around the world.  For the amount of money a family spends to go to an animal park, they can have an on the water experience seeing whales in their natural environment. It is long past due for us as a thinking and caring human species to adopt and require practices that respect whales and respect their right to live in their natural wild environment.

Orca Photo: Carrie Vonderhaar, Ocean Futures Society

Anywhere on the planet we are connected to the ocean. We have the opportunity to do what needs to be done to protect our life support system and improve the quality of life not just of the marine environment – of the marine mammals, the orcas -- but for ourselves. This is the choice we have. If we protect the ocean, we protect ourselves.

To learn more about Orca please:

Warm regards,


Jean-Michel Cousteau
President, Ocean Futures Society

First Photo: A pod of Orca cruise the Queen Charlotte Strait, British Columbia. © Carrie Vonderhaar, Ocean Futures Society

Second Photo: Jean-Michel and Céline Cousteau observe an Orca in Johnstone Strait, British Columbia. © Carrie Vonderhaar, Ocean Futures Society

Third Photo: Jean-Michel and Fabien Cousteau comfort a stranded Orca just before her release back into New Zealand waters. © Carrie Vonderhaar, Ocean Futures Society

Fourth Photo: Kelsey breaches in Johnstone Strait, British Columbia. © Carrie Vonderhaar, Ocean Futures Society