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11th Circuit Weighs in on Lolita Miami Seaquarium Controversy!

I bet you woke up this morning and asked:  what does the 11th Circuit think about the whole Lolita Miami Seaquarium "killer whale" controversy?

Well now you know:

Actually, this is pretty interesting history:
Lolita is a 20-feet long, 7000 pound Orcinus orca held in captivity at Seaquarium. In 1970, Ted Griffin, the first person to swim with an orca in a public exhibition, captured Lolita in Whidbey Island’s Penn Cove, off the coast of Washington State. Lolita was approximately three to six years old and a member of the Southern Resident L Pod. Seaquarium purchased Lolita, and she has lived there since September 24, 1970. Lolita performs each day in an event called the “Killer Whale and Dolphin Show.”

Lolita lives in a tank which is surrounded by stadium seating. The stadium covering leaves Lolita exposed to ultraviolet radiation as she floats along the water’s surface. As sunscreen, Seaquarium applies a black-colored zinc oxide on Lolita’s skin. The effect of this sunscreen on Lolita’s physiology is unknown. ALDF alleges Seaquarium’s failure to provide Lolita with adequate sun cover violates 9 C.F.R. § 3.103(b)’s requirement to afford adequate protection from the weather or direct sunlight to marine animals kept outdoors.

Lolita’s tank is oblong-shaped with a 5 feet 2 inches wide, crescent-shaped concrete platform that extends from the bottom of the tank through the surface of the water. Lolita’s trainers stand on this platform during her performances. Her tank measures 80 feet by 60 feet. The concrete platform leaves an unobstructed circular pool of 80 feet by 35 feet. ALDF alleges Lolita’s tank is smaller than the 48 feet minimum horizontal standard permitted by agency regulation. See id. § 3.104(b) (providing cetaceans in captivity must be given a pool of water with a minimum horizontal dimension of at least “two times the average adult length” of the species).

Orcas are primarily social in the wild and travel in large groups. Lolita has not interacted with another orca since Hugo, who was also captured off the coast of Washington State, died in March 1980. Lolita instead shares her tank with Pacific white-sided dolphins.
Bottom line -- go to Congress (that will work out great!):
As long as USDA refuses to initiate a discretionary enforcement proceeding, the remedy ALDF and Lolita’s legion of supporters seek lies not in the federal courts, but in the halls of Congress. Our democratically elected leaders alone have the authority to limit USDA’s license-renewal discretion in this matter and to demand annual, substantive compliance with animal welfare standards. While we are sensitive to the plight of Lolita and other animals exhibited across this country, we cannot say USDA violated the AWA by renewing Seaquarium’s license through its purely administrative scheme. For the foregoing reasons, we must affirm the district court’s grant of summary judgment to USDA.
They even held their nose!




  1. Don't jail the whale. Free Lolita! She is spending her life in the equivalent of supermax solitary. It is a crime of horrible evil that this innocent creature has been captured and forced to dance for her food for almost 50 years.

    Miami trivia - Who was Hugo the killer whale named after ? A true miami native.


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