(CNN/CBS4) — Canada’s House of Commons passed a bill Monday to make it illegal to hold a whale, dolphin or porpoise captive, punishable by fines up to $150,000 USD. It’s known colloquially as the “Free Willy” bill, named after the 1993 movie in which a young boy frees a killer whale from a US amusement park.

Mom and baby killer whale swim together at SeaWorld San Diego’s Shamu Stadium February 14, 2013 in San Diego, California. (credit: Mike Aguilera/SeaWorld San Diego via Getty Images)

“Nothing fantastic ever happens in a hurry. But today we celebrate that we have ended the captivity and breeding of whales and dolphins. This is news to splash a fin at,” animal rights group Humane Canada said in a tweet.

The bill is expected to become law. It was introduced in the Senate in December 2015 and was already approved there but must return now and gain “royal assent.”

The Green Party of Canada celebrated in a statement Monday. “These intelligent, social mammals will now get to live where they belong — in the ocean,” the party said.

A bottlenose dolphin was born at SeaWorld San Diego on November 12, 2013 (credit: Mike Aguilera/SeaWorld San Diego via Getty Images)

The bill makes exceptions if the animals are rescues, in rehabilitation or licensed for scientific research, or when it’s in the animal’s best interests.

Dozens of supporters of the bill used the hashtag #emptythetanks to celebrate on social media.

According to a National Geographic report published in March, there are currently 59 orcas in captivity at sea parks and aquariums throughout the world.

“A third of the world’s captive orcas are in the United States, and all but one of those live at SeaWorld’s three parks in Orlando, San Diego, and San Antonio. Lolita, a 54-year-old orca who was captured in 1970 in the waters off Washington State, lives alone at the Miami Seaquarium, in a pool with an open-top roof that’s less than twice the length of her body,” the report states.

SeaWorld parks have phased out orca shows but still offer daily dolphin shows.

According to the SeaWorld website, the underwater viewing area at the park in Orlando is currently home to a small group of rescued pilot whales.


(© Copyright 2019 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. CNN contributed to this report.)


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