By Barbara Liston
ORLANDO, Florida (Reuters) - SeaWorld Entertainment Inc is trying to block a shareholder vote requested by an activist animal rights group on creating a coastal retirement sanctuary for the theme park's killer whales, the group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) said on its website on Monday.
SeaWorld did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Monday evening.
PETA, which opposes the captivity of killer whales for entertainment purposes, is proposing that the theme park begin development of coastal sanctuaries where killer whales can be rehabilitated and retired and seen by the public in their natural habitat.
PETA bought stock in SeaWorld when the company made its initial public offering on April 19, 2013, announcing at the time that it purchased the minimum number of shares needed to attend and speak at annual meetings and to submit shareholder resolutions.
SeaWorld is seeking to invoke a Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) rule that allows a company to exclude a proposal made by a shareholder who has owned stock for less than a year, PETA reported on its website.
PETA said it has sent a letter to the SEC asking the agency to deny SeaWorld's attempt to keep its proposal from being heard or voted upon.
PETA argued that SeaWorld is filing its proxy materials on April 17, two days before the anniversary of its initial offering, making it impossible to have owned stock for a full year.
PETA bought stock with changes for the whales in mind.
"Our first order of business as part owners of SeaWorld? Getting the orcas out - including Corky, who has been enslaved by SeaWorld for 44 years," wrote PETA blogger Michelle Kretzer in a post on the day of the initial public offering.
Corky, who lives at SeaWorld San Diego and is believed to be about 47 years old, is one of many killer whales who perform under the name Shamu.
The rights group wrote on its website Monday that sanctuaries would "go a long way toward mending SeaWorld's battered image" particularly since the 2013 debut of the documentary film "Blackfish" which raised questions about the ethics of keeping intelligent creatures in captivity.
The 2013 documentary focuses on Tilikum, who killed trainer Dawn Brancheau and led a federal administrative judge to order the theme park to maintain barriers between trainers and the whales.
(Editing by Edith Honan and Eric Walsh)