Federal government to review petition aimed at freeing captive orca

SEATTLE — The federal government has agreed to reconsider a petition aimed at freeing the killer whale Lolita from captivity at Miami Seaquarium.

The Animal Legal Defense Fund and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals plan to file a new petition asking the National Marine Fisheries Service to include the captive orca Lolita within its endangered species listing for Puget Sound orcas.

Lolita has been performing at Seaquarium since she was captured from Northwest waters in 1970.

Under a settlement agreement filed Friday with the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, the federal government must decide by specific time periods whether protection for the captive killer whale is warranted. In return, the groups agreed to dismiss its appeal.

“This is what we wanted all along. We believe they acted illegally all along in excluding Lolita,” Jeff Kerr, general counsel for PETA, said Monday. “Our belief is that she’ll be included (in the listing).”

When the National Marine Fisheries Service listed the Southern Resident orcas as endangered in 2005 — in decline because of lack of prey, pollution and contaminants, and effects from vessels and other factors — it didn’t include whales placed in captivity prior to the listing or their captive born offspring.

ALDF, PETA and three individuals in Washington state sued the federal government in November, saying it should have protected Lolita when it listed other Puget Sound orcas in 2005. Their lawsuit alleged that the fisheries service allows the Miami Seaquarium to keep Lolita in conditions that harm and harass her and otherwise wouldn’t be allowed under federal law.

In early May, a federal judge court in Tacoma dismissed the case on procedural grounds. The plaintiffs appealed later that month.

Lolita is the last surviving orca captured from the Southern Resident orca population during the 1970s. She is a member of the L pod, or family. The J, K, and L pods ply the waters of Puget Sound and British Columbia. The whales have striking black coloring and white bellies and spend time in tight, social groups.

The Seaquarium has said Lolita is active, healthy, well-cared for and plays an important role in educating the public about the need to conserve the species.

More in Local News

These little piggies stay home

Norman, who was spotted last week in Everett, is part of a trio kept as pets by the “pig whisperer.”

Cheering families welcome Kidd, Shoup after 6 months at sea

“I get back Daddy back today,” said one homemade sign at Naval Station Everett.

Stanwood man, 33, killed in crash near Marysville

Speed may have been a factor, the sheriff’s department said.

Street-legal ATVs approved for some roads near Sultan

Supporters foresee tourism benefits. Opponents are concerned about injury and pollution risks.

Jamie Copeland is a senior at Cedar Park Christian Schools’ Mountlake Terrace campus. She is a basketball player, ASB president, cheerleader and, of course, a Lion. (Dan Bates / The Herald)
Cedar Park Christian senior stepping up to new challenges

Jamie Copeland’s academics include STEM studies, leadership, ASB activities, honor society.

Woman, 47, found dead in Marysville jail cell

She’d been in custody about four days after being arrested on warrants, police said.

County plans to sue to recoup costs from ballot drop-box law

A quarter-million dollars could be spent adding 19 ballot boxes in rural areas.

Providence Hospital in Everett at sunset Monday night. Officials Providence St. Joseph Health Ascension Health reportedly are discussing a merger that would create a chain of hospitals, including Providence Regional Medical Center Everett, plus clinics and medical care centers in 26 states spanning both coasts. (Kevin Clark / The Daily Herald)
Merger would make Providence part of health care behemoth

Providence St. Joseph Health and Ascension Health are said to be talking. Swedish would also be affected.

5 teens in custody in drug-robbery shooting death

They range in age from 15 to 17. One allegedly fatally shot a 54-year-old mother, whose son was wounded.

Most Read