Bill To Prohibit Captivity And Captive Breeding Of Orcas And Other Whales Introduced

A bill to amend the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 and the Animal Welfare Act was introduced by U.S. Senator Ron Wyden on Wednesday, January 31, 2024. The legislation was reintroduced to end the future capture and breeding of certain whales for public display.

Orcas, false killer whales, pilot whales, and beluga whales are the subject of the bill. These whales have been scientifically recognized to be cognitively, emotionally, and socially complex animals who are unable to thrive in captivity. The existing legislation that would be affected by the new bill once passed are the following:

  • The Animal Welfare Act will be amended, prohibiting any breeding of the named whale species for future public display. The SWIMS Act lists exemptions for whales being transported to a sanctuary setting or in transit to be released into the wild.
  • The Strengthening Welfare in Marine Settings (SWIMS) Act will amend the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972. The act will prohibit the importation, exportation, or taking of any orca, false killer whales, pilot whales, and beluga whales for public display within the U.S.


The SWIMS Act 6 of 2024 is being backed by the Animal Welfare Institute,  Born Free USA, the Dolphin Project, the Animal Legal Defense Fund,,  Earth Law Center, the Cetacean Society International, FOUR PAWS USA,  CompassionWorks International, the Humane Society Legislative Fund, and several others.

In his press release, Wyden confirmed that whales held in captivity are found to live much shorter lives than whales in the wild, notwithstanding rules that have been passed to improve the conditions in public display settings. By banning the trade and breeding for the purpose of public display of the four whale species, animal welfare nationwide would be improved. In addition, by encouraging whales in the wild, the bill promotes more whale-watching tourism when major natural whale migrations occur each year- a popular activity that flourishes off the coast of Oregon.

His office highlighted the fact that whales held for display often exhibit signs of suffering and distress, dying significantly younger than their cousins who live in the wild. There are currently around 50 whales held in captivity in the United States.

Led by U.S. Representatives Adam Schiff, D-Calif., Jared Huffman, D-Calif., and Suzan DelBene, D.-Wash., in the House, the SWIMS Act is cosponsored by U.S. Senators Alex Padilla, D-Calif., Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., Cory Booker, D-N.J, and Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill.




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