San Diego Business Journal

SeaWorld San Diego has filed a lawsuit challenging a recent California Coastal Commission decision impacting its planned killer whale habitat expansion, reiterating its prior contention that the coastal panel does not have authority to ban the breeding of captive orcas.

The suit, filed Dec. 29, asks the San Diego County Superior Court to set aside a “no breeding or transfer” condition imposed by the Coastal Commission as part of its October approval of SeaWorld’s planned $100 million Blue World whale habitat expansion.

The lawsuit contends that the condition is unprecedented and “plainly illegal” because the Coastal Commission does not have jurisdiction over the care, breeding or transport of SeaWorld’s orcas.

“All of SeaWorld’s activities with respect to the care, breeding and transportation of orcas occur onshore in the orca pools and not in the marine environment and are specifically governed by federal law,” the lawsuit states. “And, notably, SeaWorld has not collected an orca from the wild in more than 35 years, has never collected an orca from California coastal waters, and has expressly committed not to collect an orca from the wild in the future.”

The Coastal Commission said in a statement that it “stands by its decision in October to protect killer whales,” but otherwise would have no further comment on the lawsuit.

Announced in August 2014, Blue World would span nearly 1.5 acres and includes a near doubling of the water volume of SeaWorld San Diego’s current whale enclosure, to 10 million gallons. Plans also call for new underwater viewing areas and interactive features, with completion slated for 2018.