In an interesting turn of events, SeaWorld Entertainment announced that it's ending its orca breeding program (effective immediately) and theatrical orca whale shows (phasing out over the next year). Despite public backlash from the documentary "Blackfish" and onerous coastal development conditions imposed by the California Coastal Commission, SeaWorld has steadfastly argued that it has a right to continue its' orca breeding practices. In fact, this is one of SeaWorld's primary arguments in its lawsuit filed in late 2015.
As promised in October 2015, SeaWorld LLC dba SeaWorld San Diego has commenced litigation against the California Coastal Commission over a decision to condition SeaWorld's new orca enclosure on numerous onerous conditions, including those that dealt with the husbandry practices and transportation restrictions of the orcas. The initial Petition for Writ of Mandate and Complaint for Declaratory Relief was filed on Tuesday, December 29, 2015 after an agreement by the parties to extend the time period for which SeaWorld had to file its lawsuit.
In another sweeping decision, the California Coastal Commission has seemingly overstepped its jurisdiction of regulating the use of land and water in the coastal zone by imposing certain breeding restrictions on SeaWorld's orca breeding practices. Specifically, the Coastal Commission approved SeaWorld's replacement and expansion of its existing orca facility subject to several special conditions. One such condition is the discontinuation of SeaWorld's practice of breeding captive orcas, or transporting whales from other facilities. As SeaWorld prepares to challenge this condition, Californians must ask whether, as a public policy, the Coastal Commission should have jurisdiction over the use of land and water within the coastal zone and the animal husbandry practices of trained veterinarian professionals. Although the Coastal Commission's most recent decision appears facially inconsistent with the legislative intent of the Coastal Act and potentially in conflict with the federal law governing such practices, it will certainly be interesting to follow SeaWorld's impending legal challenge.