If you have ever dreamed of having your own dolphin or whale, you can still do it legally in Washington State – but you better hurry! The permitting process takes a while, and the state government is now considering a bill that will close the loophole in Federal regulations that lets anyone who meets basic requirements keep their own dolphins.
The good news is that this Unlawful Cetacean Captivity bill (HB 2888) will not only prevent people from trying to keep a pet dolphin, it will also prevent roadside attractions and hotels from keeping dolphins and whales (collectively known as ‘cetaceans) too. [Please call Senator Pearson, 360.786.7676 and express your opinion by January 25th].
An unfortunate aspect of those privately owned dolphin exhibits is that they can be sold to anyone, anywhere. For instance both Miami Seaquarium (which has the killer whale Lolita, captured in Washington) and Sea Life Park in Hawaii are owned by a company in Spain, Parques Renunidos – technically they could ship Lolita or any of the cetaceans off to any of their dozen marine parks, worldwide.
Passing this bill will also make good economic sense for Washington – it will save the headache and cost of permitting and overseeing the construction and maintenance of captive dolphin facilities, of addressing animal rights concerns, as well as the issue of having the federal government looking over the shoulder of the state to make sure that federal guidelines, as weak as they are, are met.
Washington state is also fully committed to maintaining and improving the enjoyment of wildlife and has successfully balanced the needs of outdoor enthusiasts, environmentalists, hunters, and fisheries and this bill definitely reflects the state’s willingness to juggle opposing interests.
From Economic Analysis of Outdoor Recreation in Washington State January 2015:
“Outdoor recreation markets bridge urban and rural communities. Outdoor recreation provides opportunities for physical exercise, which keeps us healthy. Indeed, the recreation market is unquestionably one of the largest markets in the state for moving income from urban to rural areas and building sustainable jobs in rural Washington State. Most outdoor recreation related expenditures trickle down to local economic sectors. Overall, investment in outdoor recreation infrastructure yields high returns throughout the entire state.”
In part because the state has done a good job in addressing the condition of Puget Sound and the greater Salish Sea the abundance of cetaceans has increased to the point that we have gray whales coming close to shore and the stunning humpback whales have visited in increasing numbers. We can easily enjoy them from the shoreline or on whale watching vessels (which is a growing industry that brings economic gain to other businesses as well).
The endangered local population of killer whales has had a baby boom recently, and the state’s management of salmon will help insure that those whales have enough to eat going into the future while still leaving enough for anglers to enjoy.
There are no captive cetaceans in Washington State and there haven’t been for years so there are no negative consequences to any existing business.
Passing this bill is just good sense (and good cents), so please call Senator Pearson (who will decide in the coming days if the bill should go through to the next step in the Senate) and ask him to put the bill through so that the public can make comments.
[Please call Senator Pearson, 360.786.7676 by January 25th].
The bill, HB 2228:
Washington State House of Representatives Office of Program Research BILL ANALYSIS Agriculture & Natural Resources Committee HB 2888
Brief Description: Concerning cetacean captivity.
Sponsors: Representatives Van De Wege, Pettigrew, Stanford, Morris, Kuderer, S. Hunt, Appleton, Peterson, Fitzgibbon, Hurst, Pollet and Farrell.
Brief Summary of Bill
Creates the Fish and Wildlife Code offense of Unlawful Cetacean Captivity as a gross misdemeanor. Prescribes penalties for an Unlawful Cetacean Captivity violation of $5,000 or imprisonment for not more than 364 days, or both. Hearing Date: 2/2/16 Staff: Rebecca Lewis (786-7339).
Background: Cetaceans are aquatic, marine mammals, including whales, dolphins, and porpoises. The federal Marine Mammal Protection Act prohibits, with certain exceptions, the taking of marine mammals in United States waters and by United States citizens on the high seas, and the importation of marine mammals and marine mammal products into the United States.
Permits and exemptions allow for incidental takes, scientific research, and for first-time import or capture of wild marine animals for public display. Under state law, it is a natural resource infraction to cause a vessel to approach or be in the path of a southern resident Orca whale (Orca). It is also an infraction to feed an Orca or fail to disengage the transmission of a vessel within 200 yards of an Orca. There are a few exceptions, including: engaging in a treaty Indian or commercial fishing operation that is actively setting, retrieving, or closely tending fishing gear; engaging in rescue of a beached Orca overseen, ––––––––––––––––––––––
This analysis was prepared by non-partisan legislative staff for the use of legislative members in their deliberations. This analysis is not a part of the legislation nor does it constitute a statement of legislative intent. House Bill Analysis – 1 – HB 2888 authorized, or coordinated by a volunteer stranding network; or engaging in an activity permitted by the Department of Fish and Wildlife or the National Marine Fisheries Service. Summary of Bill: The Fish and Wildlife Code offense of Unlawful Cetacean Captivity is created.
The following acts each constitute Unlawful Cetacean Captivity: holding a wild-caught or captive-bred cetacean in captivity for performance or entertainment purposes; capturing or importing into the state a wild-caught or captive-bred cetacean with the intention of using the cetacean for performance or entertainment purposes; breeding a cetacean in captivity; or importing, exporting, or collecting semen, other gametes, or embryos of a cetacean for the purpose of artificial insemination.
A person may lawfully hold a cetacean for rehabilitation, rescue or stranding, or research purposes. If possible, a person or entity holding a cetacean for rehabilitation or research purposes must return the cetacean to the wild. If it is not possible to return the cetacean to the wild, the person or entity must hold the cetacean at a location approved by the National Marine Fisheries Service and may not use the cetacean for performance or entertainment purposes.
A violation of Unlawful Cetacean Captivity is a gross misdemeanor and is punishable upon conviction by a fine of not more than $5,000 or by imprisonment of not more than 364 days, or both.