SeaWorld is suing California authorities in a bid to overturn a ban on breeding killer whales in captivity.
The lawsuit, filed in San Diego Superior Court, argues that the California Coastal Commission overstepped its authority when it imposed the breeding restriction because it does not have jurisdiction over the marine mammals, which are regulated under federal law.
In October, the California Coastal Commission - which oversees development along California's coast - approved a $100m expansion of Seaworld's "Blue World" that it uses to hold orcas.
But along with the expansion, the commission imposed a ban on breeding at the planned facility and prohibitions on the sale, trade or transfer of the whales.
SeaWorld's lawsuit says the ban would effectively end its popular killer whale shows.
"The condition forces SeaWorld to either agree to the eventual demise of its lawful and federally-regulated orca exhibition, or withdraw the permit application and forego the effort to enhance the orcas' habitat," it alleges.
"Eight of the 11 orcas were bred in captivity", the lawsuit says.
"SeaWorld has not collected an orca from the wild in more than 35 years and has committed to not doing so in the future," it adds.
The company is also challenging critics who attended October's seven-hour hearing.
"The Coastal Commission process became unhinged," the complaint stated.
"Animal rights activists appeared at the Coastal Commission hearing and vilified SeaWorld."
The complaint asked the Superior Court to either remove the breeding restrictions or order a new hearing for the development of “Blue World”.
Noaki Schwartz, spokeswoman for the Coastal Commission, said it could not comment on the legal action but "stands by its decision in October to protect killer whales".Suggest a correction