SeaWorld sues California to lift killer whale restrictions

SeaWorld sues California to lift killer whale restrictions

SAN DIEGO — The battle for the killer whale rages on. Reuters reports that SeaWorld sued California authorities on Tuesday in an effort to overturn a decision that would allow the San Diego theme park to expand its orca habitat only if it stops breeding killer whales in captivity.

The lawsuit argues that the California Coastal Commission, which oversees development along California’s coast, does not have jurisdiction over the marine mammals. The killer whales, rather, are regulated under federal law.

“The condition forces SeaWorld to either agree to the eventual demise of its lawful and federally regulated orca exhibition, or withdraw the permit application and forego the effort to enhance the orcas’ habitat,” said SeaWorld Entertainment Inc attorneys.

The California Coastal Commission voted unanimously during a hearing in October to give SeaWorld permission to double the size of its orca pools on the condition the park terminates its captive breeding program and does not transfer any of its marine mammals to other facilities.

According to the lawsuit, eight of SeaWorld’s 11 orcas were bred in captivity. Critics who attended the hearing demanded the 11 orcas to be released into the wild.

“SeaWorld has not collected an orca from the wild in more than 35 years and has committed to not doing so in the future,” attorneys added.

The complaint asks the Superior Court judge to either order the removal of restrictions or order a new hearing of the development proposal without the restrictions on breeding and transfer, plus the cost of SeaWorld’s attorney fees.