SeaWorld killer whale show
SeaWorld Entertainment admitted it asked certain employees to pose as animal rights activists. Pictured: Trainers have Orca killer whales perform for the crowd during a show at the SeaWorld in San Diego, California, March 19, 2014. Reuters/Mike Blake

SeaWorld Entertainment Inc. said Thursday it will appeal the California Coastal Commission’s ruling that banned captive killer whale breeding at its San Diego theme park. The company accused the commission of going beyond its jurisdiction in prohibiting the breeding of captive orcas.

The commission last Thursday approved SeaWorld’s proposal to expand the tanks it used to keep the killer whales, but forbade their breeding. The decision pertained only to the California park and not to SeaWorld's facilities in other states. SeaWorld also operates parks in San Antonio, Texas, and Orlando, Florida.

"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. … The commission has overstepped both federal and California law," Joel Manby, CEO of SeaWorld, said in a statement Thursday.

"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,” Manby added.

Animal rights activists had welcomed the coastal commission’s ruling. The commission had received 200,000 emails and 50,000 letters over the issue. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals had urged SeaWorld to “stop building tanks and start emptying the ones they've got by sending the orcas to coastal sanctuaries.”

Following the release of a 2013 documentary “Blackfish” that shows SeaWorld's treatment of captive orcas, there has been a decline in the park's visitors, the Associated Press (AP) reported Thursday. The company's stocks have also tumbled over the last two years.

SeaWorld’s proposed expansion reportedly aimed to demolish parts of a 1995 facility that had a 1.7 million gallon pool and substitute it with a 5.2 million gallon tank and 450,000-gallon pool.

Commissioner Dayna Bochco, who proposed the breeding ban, defended the move on Thursday. "This was not a power grab," Bochco wrote on the San Diego Union-Tribune website. "The commission is not pre-empted by any federal law and no other state agency is addressing issues related to captive whales. We were faced with making our decision in a regulatory vacuum. It's difficult to imagine a species more inherently unsuited for captivity."