Animal activists are suing to put pressure on a federal agency to force SeaWorld to release whale necropsy reports for three orcas - including one made infamous in the "Blackfish" documentary.
A group of animal activists, which includes PETA and the Animal Welfare Institute, filed the lawsuit against the National Marine Fisheries Service for its stance that it doesn't have the legal authority to force SeaWorld to publicly release necropsy reports and veterinary records for the deceased orcas Tilikum, Kasatka and Kyara.
Tilikum, the infamous whale featured in the "Blackfish" documentary that was involved in three human deaths, died in 2017 from a bacterial lung infection. That same year, Kasatka died in SeaWorld's San Diego park and Tilikum's granddaughter, Kyara, died in San Antonio.
The lawsuit does not name SeaWorld Entertainment. However, the Orlando-based company is facing two other lawsuits filed this week from a subcontractor over nearly $32,000 in allegedly unpaid bills.
"Under the provisions of the Marine Mammal Protection Act, these orcas belong to the people of the United States, not SeaWorld, and we have every right to access information about their health and welfare," said David Phillips of Earth Island Institute, one of the plaintiffs, in a statement.
SeaWorld spokesman Travis Claytor declined to comment but the company has previously said they already released the Tilikum's cause of death - as legally required - and allowed Tilikum's tissues to be examined for more than a dozen scientific studies.
"We are proud to make meaningful contributions to the larger scientific body, and, as a result, improve our collective efforts to conserve killer whales around the world," a company spokeswoman wrote in an email in August 2017.
The animal activists said they previously reached out to the federal officials and SeaWorld to get the information and considered the lawsuit their last resort.
NOAA Fisheries does not comment on legal matters, a spokeswoman for the federal agency said.
In other news, System Tech Services, a Sanford-based company, filed two lawsuits in Orange Circuit Court last week against SeaWorld and a general contractor Arnett-Sinclair Contracting of Orange County.
In the lawsuits, System Tech said it has not been paid fully for doing construction in 2017 on HVAC systems. The amounts are for $19,457 for a training room in the Aquatica Orlando water park and $12,491 for the Seafire Grill at SeaWorld Orlando, according to the lawsuit.
"These are matters regarding payments from contractors to subcontractors, and as a matter of policy we do not comment on pending litigation," Claytor said in an email.
System Tech, which filed liens, is suing for the unpaid work as well as prejudgment interest at 1.5 percent a month and legal costs.
System Tech's lawyer declined to comment and a project manager for Arnett-Sinclair whose phone number was listed in the court documents did not return a message for comment.
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