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SeaWorld Set to Fight|Orca Breeding Ban

SAN DIEGO (CN) - SeaWorld said it plans to challenge the California Coastal Commission's decision to ban the breeding of killer whales in captivity.

The company called the commission's decision - a condition it attached to its approval of a multimillion-dollar expansion of SeaWorld's San Diego whale habitat - "overreaching," arguing that animal welfare is governed by federal and state laws that do not fall within the commission's jurisdiction.

The decision affects one of the San Diego theme park's main attractions - its 11 performing orcas - and could impact the future of the shows. It came after SeaWorld sought approval for a $100 million effort called the Blue World Project, an expansion that would double the water volume of the existing orca facility and was expected to be open to the public in 2018.

Joel Manby, SeaWorld's president and CEO, said in the company's statement that since the commission is "a regulatory board charged with managing coastal development and related land-use decisions," it went "way beyond" its jurisdiction and authority when it issued the ban.

"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," he said.

"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."

SeaWorld says it is strictly regulated by the federal government, with frequent random inspections by federal veterinarians and other officials. The company is also accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, which says SeaWorld is "meeting or exceeding the highest standard of animal care and welfare of any zoological organization in the world," according to the statement.

Commission representative Noaki Schwartz told Courthouse News the commission had no comment because it has not received a formal complaint.

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