SeaWorld announced Thursday it plans to take legal action against the California Coastal Commission, saying the agency overreached when it demanded the theme park stop its captive killer whale breeding.
Last week, the commission took up a $100 million SeaWorld proposal, called the Blue World Project, to expand its orca tanks in San Diego. While it did approve the plan, the commission added a caveat: officials must not allow their captive whales to breed.
That kind of animal welfare decision, SeaWorld says, is not in the Coastal Commission’s jurisdiction.
"By imposing broad new jurisdiction over all future SeaWorld marine animal projects, as well as aquarium projects elsewhere in the state, the Commission has overstepped both federal and California law," said Joel Manby, SeaWorld president and chief executive officer, in a statement.
Charged with managing coastal land-use issues, the Coastal Commission should have simply ruled on the permit requested by SeaWorld, Manby said. Read his full statement below.
As a result, SeaWorld has obtained legal counsel to challenge the decision.
Before the commission’s hearing last week, animal welfare activists rallied against the Blue World Project, saying the expansion of the exhibits would allow for more breeding. No matter how big the tanks, PETA officials say the whales will never have a habitat that meets their needs like the open ocean.
SeaWorld says it is strictly regulated by the federal government and passes licensing requirements every year. It is also accredited by organizations like the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, according to SeaWorld Communications Director David Koontz.
The Blue World Project would replace and expand two existing orca facilities with larger tanks. One would have 5.2 million gallons of water, and the other would have 450,000 gallons.
President Joel Manby’s full statement is here:
"As a regulatory board charged with managing coastal development and related land-use decisions, the Coastal Commission went way beyond its jurisdiction and authority when it banned breeding by killer whales at SeaWorld. By imposing broad new jurisdiction over all future SeaWorld marine animal projects, as well as aquarium projects elsewhere in the state, the Commission has overstepped both federal and California law. 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. To say that this is a dubious decision with no legal basis is an understatement, which is why we must and will challenge the Commission's decision."