A new US federal bill that would end the future capture and breeding of whales for public display has been presented. Introduced on 26th July 2022 by Representatives Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), Jared Huffman (D-Calif.), and Suzan DelBene (D-Wash.) as well as Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the Strengthening Welfare in Marine Settings (SWIMS) Act is the first federal legislation that seeks to end cetacean’s captivity. The Nonhuman Rights Project (NhRP) helped develop this new bill.
The SWIMS Act would amend the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 to prohibit the taking, importation, or exportation of orcas, beluga whales, pilot whales, and false killer whales for public display unless the animal is being transported to a sanctuary setting or released to the wild. The bill further amends this Act to prohibit any breeding of these species for future public display.
Courtney Fern, the NhRP’s Director of Government Relations and Campaigns, said, “As part of our commitment to advocating in the halls of power for the freedom of autonomous nonhuman beings like whales, we’re honoured to have been able to work with a long time, passionate animal advocate like Representative Schiff in the lead-up to this bill’s introduction…We look forward to working with Representative Schiff’s office, the SWIMS Act cosponsors, and the strong coalition of endorsing organizations to ensure its passage.” If passed, the US would follow other regions and nations which have already started to phase out the keeping of whales and dolphins in captivity. For example, in 2019, the Canadian Parliament banned the captivity of cetaceans for the purpose of entertainment and profit. California, Hawaii, and North Carolina have local laws banning cetaceans in captivity, and Switzerland, France, and Croatia have also enacted legislation aimed to phase out the keeping of cetaceans captive.