A decision made by the National Marine Fisheries
Service (NMFS) has opened the door to the eventual release of Lolita—a wild-caught orca who has been held in solitary confinement in a cramped tank at the Miami Seaquarium for decades—back to her ocean home. You may have seen footage of her heartbreaking capture in the documentary film Blackfish.
The decision comes two years after PETA, the Animal Legal Defense Fund, and four individuals sued the NMFS over Lolita’s exclusion from the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The ESA protects members of the wild Southern Resident orca population, who are considered endangered, from being harmed or harassed. Yet despite being a Southern Resident orca, Lolita has been denied these protections without any explanation or lawful justificationby the NMFS.
In 2012, a settlement was reached in which the NMFS agreed to reconsider Lolita’s exclusion from the ESA pursuant to the groups’ petition, and a status review got underway.
Now, the NMFS has agreed with PETA that listing Lolita as an endangered Southern Resident orca is warranted, and thus she’s legally entitled to the same protections as her wild family. The decision to issue a proposed rule listing Lolita as endangered opens the door for her eventual release from the Miami Seaquarium, and the NMFS has opened the public comment period for consideration of this proposed rule. Now we need your help to make sure that the agency does the right thing and helps give Lolita the protections that she deserves!
Lolita was just a baby when she was torn away from her mother and family and imprisoned in a minuscule tank barely larger than her own body. For more than 40 years, she has had a poor quality of life. Swimming in endless circles, denied the companionship of other orcas, and forced to perform silly tricks, Lolita needs to spend her senior years in a coastal sanctuary in her home waters in Puget Sound, which would allow her greater freedom of movement and the opportunity to see, sense, and communicate with her mother, wild cousins, and other ocean animals and to feel the tides and waves—all the things that she has been denied for far too long.
The NMFS will be accepting public comments on this matter until March 28. Please express your support for Lolita by letting the government know that you support its decision to include Lolita in her family’s ESA listing, that the current conditions in which she is held—in a tiny barren tank with no companions of her own species and no protection from the sun—cause her to suffer, and that you want to see her transferred to a seaside sanctuary in her home waters under expert care.
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