SeaWorld drops lawsuit against Coastal Commission

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SeaWorld San Diego officials presented a plan to install larger tanks for its orcas. (Blue World Project)

SAN DIEGO — The operator of SeaWorld San Diego announced that it will drop a lawsuit that challenged the authority of the California Coastal Commission to regulate animal welfare issues.

The commission in October approved a project to expand orca tanks at the San Diego theme park, but only under the condition that the practice of breeding killer whales be stopped.

SeaWorld executives called the condition an overreach and contended that animal welfare is governed by federal and state laws that do not fall within the jurisdiction of the commission’s board.

However, the company announced last month that it would no longer breed its orcas or pursue the tank expansion project.

In a letter sent to the commission on Monday, SeaWorld officially withdrew its coastal development permit for the expansion and said the legal action was no longer warranted.

“SeaWorld counsel soon will contact Coastal Commission counsel to discuss dismissal of the pending litigation,” the letter said.

SeaWorld has been under strong pressure in recent years from animal rights advocates and their political supporters to reform how its marine mammals are handled.

Included in last month’s announcement was the formation of a partnership with the Humane Society of the United States to educate visitors about animal welfare and conservation issues through programs at the parks and expanded advocacy for whales, seals and other marine creatures in the wild.

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