Despite the fact that the tank of Lolita, the lone orca kept at Miami Seaquarium, fails to meet even the minimum requirements of the United States’ Animal Welfare Act (AWA), a lawsuit filed by PETA, the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF), the Orca Network and concerned individuals in 2012 was dismissed by the court. Now the plaintiffs have filed an appeal against the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for automatically renewing the Seaquarium’s Animal Welfare Act license.
Lolita has no orca companion in her tank, no shelter from the sun and other weather conditions – two more factors, apart from the size of the tank, that violate the AWA. As license renewals weren’t addressed when Congress adopted the AWA, the USDA is, according to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, allowed to renew the license for the Seaquarium, even though it is no secret the company is violating the AWA.
Captured in the infamous 1970 Penn Cove roundup, Lolita belongs to the Southern Resident orca population, which has been listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act since 2005. However, captive members of the population were excluded from this listing! WDC supported a petition seeking to remove this exclusion. National Marine Fisheries Services (NMFS) found the petition was warranted and are now reviewing further information. The decision is expected in January 2015.
Furthermore we submitted comments regarding the NMFS 90-Day Finding on a Petition to Revise the Critical Habitat Designation for the Southern Resident Killer Whales. The final determination is expected later in 2015.