Lolita was captured from that whale population in 1970 and is now at the Miami Seaquarium.
Her fellow orcas spend most of their time in Western Washington and British Columbia waters. Lolita is a member of the L pod, or family.
The National Marine Fisheries Service has listed these southern resident orcas as endangered since 2005. The wild population currently numbers 84.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, which is working with other animal rights groups to have Lolita freed from captivity, filed this petition.
The decision announced Wednesday will add Lolita to a current review of the status of Puget Sound orcas as an endangered species.
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