Lummi Nation, activists fight for release of Puget Sound orca held captive for 50 years

VIDEO: New moves to try to rescue orca

The Lummi Nation, Center for Whale Research and others are calling for Lolita, an orca whale that has been captive at the Miami Seaquarium for 50 years, to be retired and set free in Puget Sound, where she was born.

According to Local10.com, Sept. 24 marked the day that the 4-year-old whale, also known as Tokitae, was taken from the Puget Sound, sold and brought to the Seaquarium to perform 50 years ago.

Tribal elders of the Lummi Nation, the Indigenous people of the Pacific Northwest, were outside the Seaquarium Sept. 24, 2020, to protest. They want Lolita brought home and released in the Salish Sea, where her family, the Lpod of Southern Resident killer whales, live.

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A proposal for Lolita’s rehabilitation and retirement was first prepared by marine biologist Ken Balcomb of the Center for Whale Research in April 1995. That plan has since been developed in collaboration with the Orca Network in Freeland, Washington.

The carefully phased plan, last revised in 2018, breaks down how Lolita would be transported to the Pacific Northwest and then rehabilitated and retired in the San Juan Islands.

“Under our inherent rights, she’s a relative. We have a right to call her home,” Squil-Le-He-Le Raynell Morris of the Lummi Nation told Local10.com.

To the Lummi Nation, the whale is a member of their tribe.

Activist Thomas Copeland said the tank the whale lives in is too small for her size. He said at about 54 years old, Lolita is 22 feet long.

Documents from the Orca Network show the tank is 80′ long by 35′ wide by 20′ deep.

After fighting for her release for decades, the Lummi Nation and animal welfare activists say it’s time for her to be free.