San Diego’s SeaWorld files suit over treatment of whales
By:   //  News Briefs, US News

San Diego’s SeaWorld claims a California commission was overreaching when it banned the breeding of captive killer whales at a $100 million planned exhibit.

The suit recently filed in San Diego County Superior Court asserts that the park’s treatment of its whales is subject to federal law and not the decisions of the California Coastal Commission, which must approve major new building developments in coastal cities.

The commission endorsed the orca tank expansion known as “Blue World,” but banned breeding at the planned facility as well as prohibitions on the sale, trade or transfer of the whales.

“This last-minute ‘no breeding or transfer’ condition is unprecedented, and it is plainly illegal for one very clear reason: the Coastal Commission’s jurisdiction — which is entirely defined and circumscribed by the Coastal Act — does not extend to the care, breeding or transport of the SeaWorld orcas because the orcas are not, in any way, part of the coastal or marine environment,” SeaWorld said in its petition filed in San Diego Superior Court.

“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, improve the opportunities for scientific research, and enrich the visitor experience,” the lawsuit states.

People For the Ethical Treatment of Animals, the main group opposing the project, said in a statement Tuesday that the commission was within its rights and made the correct decision.

“It’s clear that the company’s primary intention in pursuing the Blue World Project was to breed more orcas to confine to tanks,” PETA said in a statement.

SeaWorld’s plan was to expand the water volume of the orcas’ holding tanks to 9.6 million gallons as part of a 1.5 acre attraction showcasing its killer whale population.

Image: Flickr/Robert Dewar

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