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Victory! Decision Brings Lolita One Step Closer to Her Ocean Home

Written by Jennifer O'Connor | January 24, 2014

Today, a decision made by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) 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.

1971 Orca capture off the coast of Washington State (Lolita and Family)©Terrell C. Newby, Ph.D.

The ruling 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 justification by the NMFS.

1971 Orca capture off the coast of Washington State (Lolita and Family)©Terrell C. Newby, Ph.D.

In 2012, a settlement was reached in which the NMFS agreed to reconsider Lolita’s exclusion from the ESA pursuant to our petition, and a status review got underway.

Today, the NMFS 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 opens the door for her eventual release from the Miami Seaquarium.

1971 Orca capture off the coast of Washington State (Lolita and Family)© Terrell C. Newby, Ph.D.

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’s been denied for far too long.

1971 Orca capture off the coast of Washington State (Lolita)Orca Image: © Terrell C. Newby, Ph.D.

What You Can Do

Please express your support for Lolita by submitting a comment here by March 28. Let 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.

Commenting is closed.
  • Throughout history, man has caused harm not just to animals, but to the Earth, air, water, food, environment, forests & each other. We can no longer ignore the messages in movies like “Born Free” & “Free Willy” because it’s inconvenient or a loss of profit to change or improve our life styles. Man’s destructive ways are portrayed in movies i.e. “The Lorax” or movies i.e. “Free Willy 3”. Do you recall the scene in “The Planet of the Apes” when the character portrayed by Charles Heston see the Statue of Liberty & realizes the extent of the destruction caused by man. Too many species are endangered or extinct. Studies have shown that captivity greatly reduces the life span of animals. Family is a vital part of life. Please allow Lolita & other orphaned animals to rejoin their families. Let’s protect all animals just as we try to better protect the Earth & it’s inhabitants.

  • Diana says:

    Please free Lolita! She belongs back in the sea to live out her days free after 40 years of enslavement in a concrete bathtub. ALL whales and dolphins should live in their natural habitat. Thank you.

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  • Kim Lores says:

    I demand Lolita be released at once. Sanctuary or not, she belongs in the wild with her family! It is well known and documented that Lolita clearly wales and cries at the sound of her pod while listening to recordings. Let this poor whale go home already! I demand freedom and justice for Lolita!

  • Tahmina Yasmin says:

    Please let her go that’s all. Thank you.

  • Pam Traylor says:

    Please free Lolita form her bathtub to where she belongs. You have to know this is the right thing to do… just do it and as soon as possible. Please let her be a whale and not a dollar sign.

  • Diane Baker says:

    Please return Lolita to her natural home. Let her enjoy her freedom like you have the ability to do.

  • Stephen Yates says:

    Release this poor creature!

  • Please let this poor animal live out what’s rest of her life in freedom. Her life in captivity is tragic

  • Pam G. Fraser says:

    Please free her. She has been a prisoner in man-made ‘hell’ for so very long; surely she must be allowed to swim free with her pod in a straight line for the rest of her days.

  • Ivana Islic says:

    Free Lolita so she can have her last years where she belongs: with her family and in the wild.

  • shante says:

    Please free Lolita! She belongs in the wild.

  • Sharon says:

    Please allow Lolita to be a whale and not a circus act.s

  • Nancy Smith says:

    Free Lolita! We must learn to respect the natural habitat necessary for animals on the planet to thrive.

  • Cheryl says:

    I thank you from my heart for this wonderful decision you have made. Please let her go home now. thank you again

  • wenda williamson says:

    Inhumane treatment. Release her and find other ways to make money from tourists that don’t violate your humanity.

  • Pam Pendleton says:

    No animal should ever become a victim of captivity. A part of their soul dies. This atrocity needs to end.

  • Flavia says:

    I support the decicion to include Lolita in her family’s ESA listing because the current condition in which she and many other animals are held,cause there sufference

  • ca black says:

    We all deserve freedom — so does she. Let her go!!!

  • Jeanne Hayes says:

    I support your decision to include Lolita and her family’s ESA listing that here current conditions are causing her to suffer.
    Please transfer her to a a new home in a seaside sanctuary in her home waters under expert care!

  • Sharon Warren says:

    It is the right decision to get her back to her family! NOW!!

  • Stephanie Seed says:

    Please free Lolita! She belongs back in the sea to live out her days free after 40 years of enslavement in a concrete bathtub. ALL whales and dolphins should live in their natural habitat. Thank you.

  • Jennifer says:

    She needs to be released! It’s an outrage the conditions that she is in here in Miami! I feel she needs to be in a protected pen in ocean water being she has spent her life in captivity but she definitely does not deserve to die in a dolphin tank in Miami.

  • Please Ensure That Lolita the Orca That has Been in Captivety for 40 years is Safely Transferred to a Protected Whales Sanctuary for Orcas and allow Her to have a Family Pod of Her Own. No Killing Country and Ocean Sanctuary Please !. thankyou.

  • Please release the creature. It is as smart as a person and should not be imprisoned.

  • Judy Ducharme says:

    Please, do what is morally right, and get this whale out of her prison.

  • Nicole says:

    At last!!! Please release Lolita !!!!!

  • April says:

    Return her to her family and home. We wouldnt want that to happen to us or our children, why should it happpen to animals. They have a part in this world to keep the eco system in balance just as all creature s do. Free her and all captive animals to there homes. PLEASE

  • Imprison anyone harming any animal. Let them alone! Set this wonderful creature free where it belongs. All animals should be free most humans locked up!!!

  • Rob says:

    Stop her suffering and give her back quality of life that she is entitled to – NOW!

  • sue harris says:

    Please reunite this beautiful creature with her family.

  • John Seckel says:

    Please let Lolita go free and back to her family. 40 years in prison and made to do stupid tricks for the greed of humans. That is very sad.

  • Marcy Ross says:

    Please set Lolita free. Her environment is not sufficient for her needs.

  • for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Some refer to this as karma, however I think it is just to real to run about trying to keep score and see who owes who what for this and that. The world is now on the brink of natural disaster due to the unchecked greed at all costs actions of man. Somewhere amidst all this we have discovered that all animals are more than first believed. We have been shown that animals have insight, compassion, the ability to love other species, emotions and high levels of intellect. So give the facts that we have discovered these traits it then behoves us to reverse course, act accordingly to make amends and pray that we divert any great disaster that is now assuredly on the way as an equal and opposite reaction of man loss of humanity. Save the whales!

  • Cristina Parker says:

    Please set her free. She committed no crime but has been held in solitary confinement for forty years. Where is our humanity?

  • caroline strohm says:

    Please return Lolita to where she belongs, in the ocean, free.

  • esperanza lopez says:

    Free Lolita, she needs to be with her family. It’s utterly cruel how she has been held captive all these years.

  • Deirdre Clum says:

    People who keep other creatures in prison for the captors monetary gain are evil incarnate! What gives them the right?!? It’s disgusting and their karma will get them in the end.

  • Yvonne Brady says:

    Lolita needs to be free. It is not right that any animal (land or sea) be kept in captivity. Send her home to her family.

  • David Upton says:


  • Tracy Stocker says:

    Send her home! She belongs in the wild

  • Tara Smith says:

    Please free her, she is entitled to be with her family, as all Orcas should.

  • sheryl Braum says:

    You MUST do the right thing & free Lolita asap!

  • Veg ann says:

    What is the meaning of the word humanity if we cannot recognise and ease the suffering of creatures like Lolita ? Admit that mistakes were made, and act now to correct them. It is the only moral solution.

  • Martina says:

    It’s already been said so well by so many, let her and so many others be free in their natural environment. Maybe we should trade, let those who captured her spend 40 years in a tank!

  • Richard Partridge says:

    I support the government’s decision to include Lolita in her family’s ESA listing. She needs to be transferred from her current abysmal environment to a seaside sanctuary in her home waters under expert care.

  • Sonja Sundqvist says:

    Let the end of torture of the Orca named Lolita be the beginning of release of all animals held in captivity.

  • Katherine Darling says:

    Please release Lolita and send her to a place where she can live as nature intended.

  • tye block says:

    Lolita needs to rejoin her family. She has been imprisoned and tortured for too long for greed.

  • bernardot says:

    Save free Lolita and all others !!