SeaWorld San Diego drops lawsuit over breeding ban

SeaWorld San Diego has dropped a lawsuit against the California Coastal Commission that challenged the agency’s right to impose a ban on the breeding of killer whales at the theme park.

SeaWorld, facing pressure from animal-rights groups and others, announced in March that it would no longer breed its captive orcas.

“Fantastic news,” Coastal Commission Vice Chair Dayna Bochco said of the decision to drop the lawsuit filed in the Superior Court of California in San Diego. “This finally closes the chapter on captive orca breeding in California.”

SeaWorld and the Coastal Commission clashed when the theme park applied with the state agency to expand its orca holding tanks, saying it wanted to give the whales more room to swim and create a new opportunity for research.

The state agency approved the project in October but added the condition that SeaWorld stop breeding its whales. The condition, proposed by Bochco, ensured that the 11 whales at the park would be the last generation of orcas held in captivity there. 

SeaWorld sued, challenging the commission’s authority to impose the ban as a condition of the expansion plan.

But in the face of harsh criticism from animal-rights groups, declining attendance and slumping stock prices, SeaWorld reversed course and promised to stop breeding orcas, cancel the expansion plan and overhaul its theatrical killer whale shows.

Wayne Pacelle, chief executive of the Humane Society, who worked with SeaWorld to end the breeding program, praised the decision to end the legal battle.

“This shows that we are getting past the prior debate and acrimony,” he said.

hugo.martin@latimes.com

To read more about the travel and tourism industries, follow @hugomartin on Twitter.

Copyright © 2017, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World
58°