Seattle Joins International Protest On Saturday, May 15th To Retire Captive L Pod Orca

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By Howard Garrett, Orca Network

International pressure has recently re-ignited the fight to retire Lolita, a 45 year old killer whale captured from Puget Sound who has been confined to restrictive and inhumane conditions at a US aquarium since 1971. Local supporters will stage a protest at Westlake Park, 401 Pine St. in Seattle, joining over 1,000 global supporters for an International Day of Protest on May 15.

On Saturday, May 15 there will be protests in Seattle, Olympia, Friday Harbor, and at Penn Cove on Whidbey Island, the scene of her capture in 1970. Protests will also take place in Victoria BC, Orlando, Sarasota and Miami FL, Portland OR and in dozens of other cities worldwide.

This L pod orca, Lolita, has been living in an 20-foot-deep tank at the Miami Seaquarium for the last 40 years. Her tank is only four times Lolita’s size in length, as deep as she is long, and is illegal by US Government Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) regulations. Lolita is the oldest Southern Resident whale in captivity but only half the age of other females in Puget Sound. Lolita would have to circle her tank more than 600 times to cover the same distance her Puget Sound family members travel in an average day. Her current cramped living conditions cut her life expectancy in half. Her survival this long is a statistical miracle.

This Google map’s perspective of Lolita’s tank clearly illustrates her confined conditions and the restrictive tank size which violates APHIS regulations:,-80.16453&z=18&t=h&hl=en

To date, 152 orcas have died in captivity, many of which were taken from the Southern Resident community in Puget Sound, now classified as Endangered under the Endangered Species Act. In addition, the Miami Seaquarium is in need of major repairs, and per the Marine Mammal Inventory Report, has a substantial death rate for their animals.

A retirement plan for Lolita has been devised by Ken Balcomb, a marine scientist and orca expert at the Center for Whale Research in Friday Harbor, Wash. Under this plan, Lolita can live out the rest of her life peacefully in a sea-pen sanctuary in the San Juan Islands, be able to communicate with her family and the opportunity to eventually rejoin them.

From the press release by the Ocean Preservation Society in Miami:

An International Day of Protest in support of Lolita will be held in 42 cities around the world on Saturday the 15th of May 2010. This will be a major event in Miami.

The peaceful march is to highlight the tragic case of Lolita, an orca from Puget Sound held in a tiny tank at the Miami Seaquarium for the past 40 years.

The cornerstone protest will take place in front of the Miami Seaquarium between 12:00 and 2:00pm, 4400 Rickenbacker Causeway, Miami. For a list of the additional cities and protest information visit:!/event.php?eid=112983595389683

Ric O’Barry, star of the Academy Award Winning film “The Cove” will be in attendance in Miami.

Simon Hutchins and Gregory Mooney, from the Oceanic Preservation Society, the organization responsible for producing “The Cove” will also be in Miami for the protest.



The Miami Seaquarium has been around for a very long time. Opened in 1955 and home to the “Flipper” TV series and films, unfortunately the Seaquarium is long past its “Sell By” date.

The Seaquarium was originally designed before a thorough understanding of dolphin captivity existed, and certainly was never intended to house two, or even a single orca.

Time has passed on the Seaquarium and the current owner no longer has either the money or the inspiration to modernize the dilapidated facility. Additionally, it is not staying current with modern morality. The Seaquarium continues to house animals in inadequate conditions and the orca, Lolita, is the poster child for this sad condition.

Lolita, an orca from L-pod, which resides in Puget Sound, was separated from her mother and captured in 1970. During the capture, 6 other orcas were captured, and 5 drowned. A total of 12 orcas were taken from L-pod. Of the 7 captured, Lolita is the only survivor today, all of her co-captives died prematurely, in captivity. Since the capture Lolita has lived in the Miami Seaquarium. This year marks the 40th anniversary of her confinement. Lolita’s probable mother is still alive and the matriarch of L-pod.

Lolita was originally acquired by the Seaquarium to be a companion for a solitary male orca named Hugo who was captured in 1968, but Hugo died in 1980, after only 12 years of captivity, from self inflicted injuries caused by hitting his head against the side of the tank. Lolita has now spent the last 30 years in solitary confinement.

Her only social companions are a few captive dolphins that share her tank, and of course her human trainers.

Remarkably, the tank that she once inhabited with Hugo is even too small for her alone and doesn’t even meet the basic legal requirements for orca enclosures. The USDA is aware of this and has done nothing, contrary to the Animal Welfare Act.

The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) regulations for the humane handling, care, treatment, and transportation of marine mammals (9 C.F.R. Section 3.104 – Space Requirements) state that the primary enclosure for a killer whale (Orcinus orca) must have a minimum horizontal dimension (MHD) of no less than 48 feet.

Lolita’s tank is only 35 feet across.

The Miami Seaquarium is considered to be one of the most dilapidated aquatic parks in the world. It is constantly in need of repairs. Additionally, as per the Marine Mammal Inventory Report, has a substantial death rate for their animals. They cannot get a permit to build a larger enclosure, and most likely wouldn’t do so anyway due to the capital cost.

What is the Miami Seaquarium doing to reduce Lolita’s suffering and increase her happiness? Nothing! Yet each day Lolita entertains the crowds and the Seaqurium owner Arthur Hertz counts the receipts. Hertz and the trainers are then free to leave the Seaquarium after the show when the Seaquarium closes, a basic freedom that Lolita doesn’t have. No captive marine mammal has the ability to do as they please, to seek happiness.

So how do we truly show Lolita that we care? For starters we can ensure her happiness and longevity. One way of doing this would be to retire her to a sea pen in her native Puget Sound. With this option she is no longer a slave to entertainment, and the chances of her longevity increases substantially. There has been a feasible plan in place for years.

Info on the retirement plan here:

But the Miami Seaquarium refuses to give up Lolita. The equivalent of her life insurance policy of $1,000,000 was once raised to buy Lolita from the Seaquarium to put the plan into action, but the owner refused the offer.

A grassroots movement to retire Lolita, and government intervention based on animal rights issues, are Lolita’s only hope.

With the recent events such as the tragic death of the Seaworld trainer, the congressional hearing, and the Oscar winning film The Cove, the issues of marine mammal captivity, and particularly orca captivity, have risen to the top as issues highlighting how we treat the environment around us.

Enough is enough. People and animals are dying for our entertainment.

The international day of protest for Lolita will happen on Saturday May 15th, 2010 at 12 noon, and will take place in 42 cities around the world, including in front of the Miami Seaquarium at 4400 Rickenbacker Causeway in Miami.

The protest will be a peaceful march to show the world that we care, and to show that the time has come to retire these majestic creatures and stop making them do circus tricks for our entertainment.

Simon Hutchins

1 (954) 646-3131

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