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SeaWorld will sue Coastal Commission over orca restrictions

SeaWorld San Diego

An orcas perform in the One Ocean killer whale show at SeaWorld San Diego. The park’s parent company plans to sue the California Coastal Commission over conditions the panel set on an expansion plan for the whales.

(SeaWorld Entertainment)

SeaWorld San Diego’s parent company said it will sue the California Coastal Commission over conditions the state agency imposed that would ban killer whale breeding in the marine theme park.

SeaWorld Entertainment called the restrictions placed on its expansion project “overreaching” and said Thursday that only the federal government has authority to impose conditions on marine mammals.

Facing harsh criticism from animal rights groups, SeaWorld San Diego proposed a $100-million project to expand the enclosure for the park’s 11 killer whales. But during a marathon session Oct. 8 that included emotional testimony from supporters and opponents of the plan, the panel added a last-minute condition that SeaWorld stop breeding whales and import no new whales.

SeaWorld officials complained that the conditions would mean that its killer whale show would eventually end when all of the orcas died in captivity.

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“It simply defies common sense that a straightforward land-use permit approval would turn into a ban on animal husbandry practices -- an area in which the commissioners have no education, training or expertise,” Joel Manby, president and chief executive of SeaWorld Entertainment, said in a statement.

Alliance of Marine Mammal Parks & Aquariums issued a statement in support of SeaWorld, saying the condition “sets a very dangerous precedent not only for SeaWorld, but for the entire zoological community, and SeaWorld is right to challenge it.”

SeaWorld Entertainment did not say when the lawsuit would be filed.

A spokeswoman for the Coastal Commission said the agency had no comment.

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To read more about travel, tourism and the airline industry, follow me on Twitter at @hugomartin.


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