Ways of Whales Workshop
January 25, 2014
Coupeville, Whidbey Island, Washington
PLEASE COMMENT FOR LOLITA:
On the 40th anniversary of her capture I asked Ric O'Barry about the idea of the government using its police powers to "take back" Lolita, assuming she is considered to be property of Miami Seaquarium (MSQ). He said that she is not considered property but instead is held in the public trust and was skeptical the government would take any action. He said that one of the requirements MSQ must meet to hold her in the public trust is public education.
However, MSQ provides neither accurate public information regarding Southern Resident Killer Whales nor cetacean captivity based on contemporary scientific research. Back when MSQ "acquired" her (by creating the "market demand" for an industry which caused her species to become endangered in the first place), the science was in its infancy. MSQ's so-called "public education" remains mired in 1970s dogma and ignorance, oblivious to the realities of scientific research during the intervening four to five decades.
With support from the Center for Whale Research and many others, the implementation of Orca Network's retirement plan for Lolita should provide a wealth of valuable research, coordinated with public universities, thus promoting the public good while protecting an even more valuable and rare international treasure who has earned her retirement and right to relocate with her family back home.
Within the next few years the Southern Resident Killer Whale population should increase by one former Resident. Are not the objectives of the Endangered Species Act to increase the population of endangered species in the wild and also protect endangered populations from any further harm? Both objectives can be easily achieved by retiring her to the Salish Sea. Lolita's family needs her. Right now they need us more than ever by providing official comments in support of Lolita and her family before the public input deadline, which is about a month away.
Updated Feb. 11, 2014:
The film, "Lolita, Slave to Entertainment" (see below), indicated that Lolita was no longer held in the public trust. However, this film was made nearly a decade before I spoke with Ric. Whether her status changed again in the intervening years is unclear. Is Lolita legally considered property or is she held in the public trust by MSQ?
One thing is clear: Lolita's legal status and future is engulfed in murky legal waters. Please comment soon to support her future waters being those of the Salish Sea.
See also: Everett Herald article "Murky Legal Waters"