Congressman Jared Huffman

Representing the 2nd District of California

Rep. Huffman, Colleagues Call for Stronger Marine Mammal Animal Welfare Standards

Sep 8, 2016
Press Release

Washington—Congressman Jared Huffman (D-CA) along with 11 congressional colleagues today wrote Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack requesting that the department finalize a proposed rule that updates marine mammal standards under the Animal Welfare Act. The members of Congress requested that the final rule include the strongest possible animal welfare standards.

“The current marine mammal regulations are sorely outdated. They do not provide sufficient protections for highly intelligent and social species like dolphins and orcas,” the members of Congress wrote.

In April 2016, Rep. Huffman, along with Rep. Schiff, Sens. Feinstein and Boxer, and 20 other Members of Congress, called on the USDA to protect marine mammals when revising the proposed rule.

In the last session of Congress, Huffman and Schiff passed an amendment to the Agriculture Appropriations bill for USDA to conduct and update the science necessary for Animal Welfare Act regulations on captivity of orcas and cetaceans. The Schiff-Huffman amendment passed with unanimous bipartisan support.

Reps. Huffman and Schiff have also introduced the Orca Responsibility and Care Advancement (ORCA) Act. This landmark legislation would phase out the captivity of orcas so that their display ends with this generation. Specifically, it would prohibit the breeding, the taking (wild capture), and the import or export of orcas for the purposes of public display. 

The full text of the letter is below:

 

September 8, 2016

The Honorable Thomas J. Vilsack

Secretary of Agriculture

U.S. Department of Agriculture

1400 Independence Avenue, SW

Washington, DC 20250

Dear Secretary Vilsack:

We write to urge you to finalize the department’s proposed rule to update marine mammal standards under the Animal Welfare Act. We also reiterate our request, detailed in an April 28, 2016 letter that a final rule include the strongest possible animal welfare standards.

The current marine mammal regulations are sorely outdated. They do not provide sufficient protections for highly intelligent and social species like dolphins and orcas. In 1995, the department recognized that there was compelling evidence that these regulations needed to be updated and began a negotiated rulemaking with industry and other stakeholders. While the department finalized some new marine mammal requirements in 2001, it was unable to reach consensus on regulations pertaining to facilities, enclosure size and water quality. Additionally, the department finalized a rule regarding swim-with-the-dolphins program in 1998, but suspended enforcement of that rule in 1999 due to concerns from both the agency and the industry in how the regulation was written.

In 2002, the department issued an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to update the standards for captive marine mammals for the areas where negotiated rulemaking failed to produce a consensus. Fourteen years later, the department finally released a proposed rule for public comment in January. The comment period closed on May 4, 2016.

We therefore urge the department to submit a final rule to the Office of Management and Budget for review as soon as possible. If a final rule is not submitted for review soon, this important animal welfare regulation may not be finalized before the end of the year.

Thank you for your attention to this matter. We hope you will send a final rule to the Office of Management and Budget as soon as possible.

Sincerely,

 

Dianne Feinstein

United States Senator

 

Barbara Boxer

United States Senator

 

Barbara A. Mikulski

United States Senator

 

Jeff Merkley

United States Senator

 

Cory A. Booker

United States Senator

 

Jared Huffman

Member of Congress

 

Adam Schiff

Member of Congress

 

Katherine Clark

Member of Congress

 

John Conyers, Jr.

Member of Congress

 

Alcee L. Hastings

Member of Congress

 

Barbara Lee

Member of Congress

 

Jared Polis

Member of Congress