Coastal Commission Decision: SeaWorld’s Next Steps

This past week, the California Coastal Commission gave conditional approval of SeaWorld's Blue World Project: What are the next steps? SeaWorld Entertainment, Inc. (NYSE: SEAS) announced today that the company intends to pursue legal action against the California Coastal Commission for its overreaching condition that would ban killer whale breeding at SeaWorld San Diego. Animal welfare is governed by federal and state laws that do not fall within the jurisdiction of the California Coastal Commission’s appointed board. The vote by the Commission came during the course of its ultimate approval of the Blue World Project at SeaWorld San Diego. George Soneff, Jack S. Yeh and Michael Berger of Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, LLP have been retained to represent SeaWorld in this challenge. “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,” said Joel Manby, President and Chief Executive Officer. “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.” SeaWorld is strictly regulated by the federal government, with frequent random inspections by federal veterinarians and other officials. The company passes strict licensing requirements every year and is accredited by organizations including the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). According to the AZA, SeaWorld is "meeting or exceeding the highest standard of animal care and welfare of any zoological organization in the world.” And we’re not the only ones who believed the Coastal Commission’s decision needs to the challenged. Leading California publications have responded to the conditions placed on the approval by the California Coastal Commission calling it “overreach[ing],” and the grounds on which it were made “clearly shaky.” “The commission overreached badly by requiring the aquatic amusement park to end its captive breeding program," the Los Angeles Times Editorial Board wrote. "Whether the commission's decision was legal is up to the courts, but it's not right. All Californians should be concerned about the commissioners' eagerness to stretch their regulatory reach into areas where they have no business." The San Diego Union-Tribune had similar things to say in their editorial questioning the commission's decision: “The authoritarian decision...seemingly carries the unusual assertion that the commission has the authority to regulate mammalian procreation in the coastal zone. The legal foundation for that is clearly shaky," the San Diego Union Tribune Editorial board wrote. "The commission decision was based on emotion and shallow animal-rights politics. It fails to recognize that breeding is a fundamental part of orca life.” SeaWorld is committed to providing world-class care for the killer whales at our parks. Click here to hear from the experts about the 6 things you need to know about SeaWorld’s Blue World Project

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