Will Lolita—Miami Seaquarium’s Lonely Orca—Star in Blackfish “Sequel”?

Posted by Jenni James, ALDF Litigation Fellow on June 10, 2014

The Miami Seaquarium is in the business of breaking laws. For decades, the Miami Seaquarium has confined Lolita, a wild born orca, in conditions that violate the Animal Welfare Act (AWA). Lolita is kept in an undersized concrete aquarium prison and denied shade and the companionship of other orcas. Because of this, ALDF and PETA sued the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for renewing the Miami Seaquarium’s license.

The Miami Seaquarium has also been violating the federal Occupational Safety and Health Act—the law that protects employees from deadly workplace hazards, such as swimming with wild orcas. Miami Seaquarium has been requiring trainers to swim with and even ride upon Lolita as she performs tricks in her tiny tank, despite the law. ALDF included exclusive video evidence of this ongoing occupational hazard in a complaint sent to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”). This complaint renews the request ALDF made first in November 2013, asking OSHA to investigate this blatant violation of the OSH Act.

To see the violation in question, click here (12:25 in the video).

The Miami Seaquarium has no excuse for its lawless behavior. The 2010 death of SeaWorld orca trainer Dawn Brancheau (made notorious by the award-winning documentary Blackfish), sparked a prolonged legal battle over employee safety. This battle ended in April 2014, when SeaWorld lost its appeal before a panel of judges from the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals in SeaWorld of Florida v. Perez. The panel affirmed the decision below, which held that close contact with captive orcas is a recognized hazard, prohibited by the Occupational Safety and Health Act. Despite this clear ruling, as depicted in ALDF’s video footage of Lolita’s May 10, 2014 performance, the Miami Seaquarium continues to ask its employees to put their lives on the line, all in the name of entertainment and profit. By doing so, they are inviting another tragic disaster like the one featured in Blackfish.

The legal issue is settled. The Miami Seaquarium is not immune from the Circuit Court’s decision. OSHA now has the opportunity to prevent another tragedy. In the process, Lolita will no longer be treated like a living surfboard. If you think an investigation is overdue, you can take action here.


54 thoughts on “Will Lolita—Miami Seaquarium’s Lonely Orca—Star in Blackfish “Sequel”?

  1. Adad says:

    I be going crazy to be for the rest if my life in a tiny pool and sharing oh no its crazy just to think about it at least they change the way to make her life less miserable .

  2. Jenna says:

    This is something that needs to be addressed immediately. Aquariums featuring whales and people who ride them are from the Stone Age and is ridiculous!

  3. amanda wegner says:

    All the Orcas in captivity have the saddest of stories. But for me Lolitas hurts the most. I, like Lolita am born and raised in the Pac NW. We are the same age. Her capture as a calf happened when I was 4. I dont remember it but my mom tells me. I have this guilt as I went in with my life, Lolita was robbed of hers. This Orca has paid the price with her life and everything that she was was taken away. She and all her Orca brothers and sisters were robbed of their GOD given right to live as nature intended. Its time to emptuy the Tanks..Stop violatimg Federal Law and end this horrific abuse.. Please let TOKITAE come home to us to live her life again in her native waters with her family. We are her family not Miami Seaquarium..She was kidnapped…stolen…taken and imprisoned agaimst her will… Do the right thing today. Release her back to us. Thank you.

    1. Demetra says:

      I agree, Amanda, Lolita’s story is tragic and my children have seen me cry too many times as I consider her plight. I too was raised in the Pacific NW and I am also about Lolita’s same age. This poor soul has already endured so much and deserves to be retired to her home waters and possibly reunite with her mother. If someone in power could just have the kindness of heart to do this one nice thing for her!

  4. Alana Green says:

    Let’s help free this poor creature from his life of confinement. It’s so cruel!

  5. Autumn Burfield says:

    The pool is too small. The Orca are social animals and need to be around their own kind. We are long past the point of creating shows with live animals when there are wonderful shows like Cirque du Soleil who use humans and create magical effects and a personal desire by everyone associated to participate. Why do we need animals? It all comes down to money and we need to stop compromising animals for human wealth they don’t deserve.

  6. Lisa Kassay says:

    Can’t even watch this video. It is horrible how animals are held captive in prisons and tortured for the supposed entertainment of ignorant humans. I am not in a position to donate currently but have in the past The thought if how these amazing beings are treated brings me to tears. Thank you for the fine work you do. My husband & I have been vegetarians for 22 years and love all animals it angers me how these soulless individuals capture and claim ownership on creatures that deserve to be free.

  7. Martha says:

    May We All Awaken & Be free to Live together in Harmony!

  8. KIM AMBROSE says:

    FIRT OF ALL THESE ANIMALS NEED TO BE FREE AND ALL AQUARIUMS DO NOT NEED TO MAKE MONEY OFF OF THEM. IT OS A KNOW FACT THAT THEY NEED TO LIVE IN PODS. I STOPPED GOING TO SEA WORLS AND THE MIAMI SEAQUARIUMYEARS AGO. I THINK THAT THE MIAMI SEAQUARIUM NEEDS TO BE BROUGHT TO LIGHT LET THE PUBLIC KNOW. THERE ARE OTHER WAYS TO MAKE MONEY LIKE SHOWING HOW THEY REHAB AN INJURED ANIMAL AND THE RELEASE OF IT..OSHA NEEDS TO STP IN A SEIS THIS…ORCAS NEED TO LIVE FREE AND THE ONES THAT HAVE BEEN KEOT IN CAOTIVITY NEED TO BE SET FREE IN SANCTIONED WATER. I HAVE BEEN A ANIMAL ACTIVIST FOR 50 YEARS. PROVEN FACTS STATE THE ORCAS IN CAPTIVITY ARE DEPRESSED, THEY ARE NOT GIVEN SUBSTANTIAL ROOM TO SWIM FREE. LOOK AT ORCAS THAT ARE FREE IN THE OCEANS NONE HAVE FINS THAT TURN DOWN THEY ARE ALL STRAIGHT AND PROUD. TAKE A LOOK AT TILLIKUM HIS FIN HAS FALLEN TO THE SIDE. WE NEED TO TAKE A STAND AND SET THESE BEAUTIFUL ANIMALS AND SET THEM FREE. JUST LIKE ANY ANIMAL BORN IN THE WILD OR ORIGINALLY IS SUPPOSE TO LIVE IN THE WILD FREE…LIVE FREE STAY FREE…IT’S TIME FOR US TO DO ANOTHER BLACKFISH FOR LOLITA AND EVERY OTHER CREATURE THAT IS MENT TO LIVE IN THE OCEAN TO BE FREE AND RELEASED IN SANCTIONED WATERS TILL THE ACCLIMATE TO JOURNEY OUT AND FIND A POD TO LIVE WITH. THESE ARE HUGHLY INTELLIGENT MAMMALS THAT NEED TO HAVE INTERACTION WITH THEIR OWN SPECIES. EVEN THE DOLPHINS…..LIVE FREE STAY FREE…..

  9. carly rushforth says:

    an investigation needs to be done! i can’t imagine the pain and suffering lolita has to go through in a daily basis it is awful in this day and age that this is happening, alk the way from the U.K

  10. Karen Shain says:

    Free the whale!!!

  11. Judie Stein says:

    this is just plain cruelty and has to be stopped.

  12. Janice Wilson says:

    Every time there is an animal “accident” or cruelty case, the public complains that we need tougher laws. They do not know that the laws are there already. The problem is that they are not being enforced and properly adjudicated. The law is the law. People responsible for enforcing these hard-fought laws need to do their jobs or get a new occupation.

  13. Pam says:

    Please do the RIGHT thing and stop the madness!! These animals do not belong in a tank….they need the open ocean and others of their kind to communicate and socialize with.

  14. Ellen says:

    Let’s shut down every animal event. ZOOS, drive through parks, Sea world, every place that uses animals as entertainment ! They are not ours to decide their fate . The one I hate the most is the Circus ….. the elephants are so near and dear to my heart and they suffer abuse on a daily basis .

  15. tamari says:

    stop this outrageous action now! Do you think that if your customers have a lot of money they can do whatever they want and act so shockingly bad or excessive toward poor animal? Stop it! Now! or rot in hell!

  16. Jordi says:

    Orcas have a very delicate sense of earing…
    Let Lolita swim again on the oceans

  17. IT IS VERY SIMPLE, THESE MAGNIFICENT CREATURES OF SUCH LARGE PROPORTIONS DO NOT BELONG IN A MAN MADE POOL, UNLESS IT IS THE BEST SIZE FOR THEM. PLUS, ESPECIALLY ALL ALONE FOR YEARS ON END WITHOUT FELLOW ANIMAL CONTACT!!!!
    IT IS SIMPLY PURE TORTURE FOR THEM!! NO WONDER THEY ACT OUT OCCASIONALLY FROM FRUSTRATION!!!!

  18. Herman says:

    Imagine yourself in tank like this! How long will you stand up and live.

  19. Shadow Reyes says:

    Why has Lolita not been freed and this place and all others been shut down???? Wth is taking so long?????????????????????

    1. The Miami Seaquarium was sold a few months back. The deal will be closed in January. Arthur Hertz has promised for years to build Lolita a new tank, but never followed through. Lolita’s true name is Tokitae, or Toki. Her pod,L-Pod, still lives in the Salish Sea which is an inland extension of the Pacific Ocean between Washington State and Vancouver. Toki still cries out in their dialect and there is a cove waiting for her that would be fenced off where her pod swims nearby. It is expected that her pod will recognize her and at some point she might just be set free. Meanwhile, she will be fed and looked after until she learns to catch the fish that will swim through the fence into her very large cove. Her pod is coastal and can be seen is far south as California and as far north as Canada. She is a member of the Southern Residents and is a fish eater. There are two resident pods, Northern and Southern in the area. If you knew how beloved these orca are in their home waters you would understand why she must be returned. Please get in touch with the Orca Network and Free Lolita on Facebook. You will learn all about Toki’s terrible capture in Penn Cove, see her family in beautiful photos and videos. Most of all, you can help her go home on both sites! More than that, share this with your friends. Your sad feelings can be put into action, and it costs nothing to sign petitions. If you learn about our Toki, you can help her go home! Please Watch “Blackfish” free on Netflix! <3

  20. Foster Boom says:

    This is horrifying! For an animal that size to be kept in a tank that small is criminal. What I’d like to see, is all the board of directors at Sea World and the trainers, locked in a small room for the rest of their lives and forced to do “tricks” for their food! Let them experience what it feels like to exist in those conditions.

  21. Jana Wiggins says:

    Follow ALDF’s instructions above to take action and write to your state representatives. It only takes a minute. They look them up for you and prefill.

  22. Ana says:

    Dear ALDF,

    If OSHA says NO why is the Seaquarium allowed to continue to do this?

  23. Ana says:

    I have to say this is probably the strongest and clearest email campaign I’ve ever seen. It made m smile and make me want to share it. It’s fantastic.

  24. judy thorpe says:

    What is so devastating sad is to see this beautiful majestic orca reduced to depending on being hand fed and doing unnatural non-entertaining tricks for food and has been in this degrading captive situation for over half of her life. Not normal,not natural,not right. Very sad and the dolphins are suffering also.

  25. Todd Williams says:

    Let’s lock these idiots up in a cage and see how they like it. They need to shut them down for good!!! How cruel can a human being be to hold a animal against its own will and torture them for there own personal gains.OSHA should be sued and dealt with for allowing this to continue .we need to come together and fight for these beautiful animals rights. Let Lolita go you assholes or deal with the ramifications !!!!!!

  26. I DON’T believe these animals should be in this VERY SMALL aquarium. These animals were ment to be in open sea waters NOT held captive against their wills. Being hand fed is just so wrong. I’m DEAD set against this & will NEVER support this kind of behavior from anyone whom holds these animals against their will. This aquarium is way too small!!!! GET THEM OUT TO OPEN SEA where GOD intend for these animals to be!!!! THIS IS SO WRONG!!! These animals could snap at any given time and someone else will die from a killer whale.Yet they kill the animal when someone dies, because it is a WILD animal..NO ONE KNOWS what these animals will do..WILD IS WILD let it go back to the sea. The Dolphins too! NO animal should be kept a a pet or be trained in any aquarium!!!!!!!!!

  27. Suzanne volante says:

    I think this is so sad I look at my own children now grown up my eldest with my 1st grandchild. How would it feel if one of our children was taken away and treated like this. It makes me cry every time I read her story. FREE. LOLITA NOW

  28. Rachel says:

    It makes me so sad and angry to see orcas in these tiny concrete tanks, what kind of life is this for them. I wouldn’t take my daughter to see such cruelty. I hope that things change, I really do

  29. Cindy Leonhardt says:

    I totally agree with Foster!!! This is horrifying! For an animal that size to be kept in a tank that small is criminal. What I’d like to see, is all the board of directors at Sea World and the trainers, locked in a small room for the rest of their lives and forced to do “tricks” for their food! Let them experience what it feels like to exist in those conditions.

  30. Patricia Faggionato says:

    It’s so sad to see this majestic orca reduced to depending on being hand fed and doing unnatural non-entertaining tricks for food and has been in this degrading captive situation for over half of her life. Not normal,not natural,not right. Very sad and the dolphins are suffering also.

  31. Demetra says:

    Poor Lolita! How on earth has she survived all of these years of mental torture? Imagine the trauma she suffered being stolen from her mother so violently as 6 orcas in her pod were drowned. Lolita-you are in my heart and I hope and pray each day that you will come home!!!!!!!!!!

  32. Jane says:

    This is very sad for lolita

  33. Gina says:

    Cruel……. Let her go!!!

  34. Kayla says:

    I sent an email to OSHA with an attachment of video proof. THIS NEEDS TO BE STOPPED!

  35. How we treat animals is a reflection of who we are as human beings. This is no way to treat animals.

  36. janis wright says:

    can’t you end this now – that’s like making a human live in a bathtub forever – just disgusting

  37. Phoenixlake says:

    EMPTY THE TANKS DO NOT BUY A TICKET Do not let children think it is okay to put whales and dolphins in tanks until they die. These animals do not get a retirement after all the years and performances,they just die in tanks.Do not get on a cruise ship and swim with dolphins in Mexico, Bahamas, Hawaii. They all just die. Watch whales and dolphins from a boat or the shore not at a abusement park.Watch The Cove and watch Blackfish, speak up and stand against SeaWorld and Miami Seaquarium. Empty The Tanks

  38. Jennifer Burnette says:

    I saw Lolita at the Miami Seaquarium as a child on summer vacation. I couldn’t have been older than ten and enjoyed watching what I thought was magic. Hindsight is, as they say, 20/20 and looking back, I am completely ashamed at what I witnessed. Not only that I was being taught that this was “entertainment”, but the fact that Lolita REMAINS in the same tiny tank that I first saw her well over twenty years ago. It’s a disgrace that this beautiful creature is treated as little more than a surfboard, made to jump out of the water at rubber balls and beach herself on a platform for all to see. Lolita deserves to return to her home waters. She has endured enough over forty+ years, she has served her time for the crime of simply being an orca. Please let Lolita return to her home waters and her family. She deserves a chance to be free.

  39. patricia says:

    YOU ARE DISGUSTING-SHAME ON YOU !!

  40. Halo says:

    This story of Lolita has just made me so sad for her and kept me up at night trying to research on how I can help save her. Please do the right thing and retire this poor girl. These people who have kept her in that small tank will pay for this one day. HORRIBLE PEOPLE!

  41. Sharon says:

    Action taken asking for an investigation of MSQ regarding their violation of OSH Act ~ Messages sent to Sen. Barbara Boxer, Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Rep. Xavier Becerra

  42. Sharon says:

    Action taken asking for an investigation of MSQ regarding their violation of OSH Act ~ Messages sent to Hon. John Perez and Sen. Kevin de Leon

  43. Herberta Kiekeben says:

    Animals are not ours to use ….:( This is an animal abuse, and must be stopped …>:(

  44. barbara says:

    You hurt a creature who is by now already gone crazy, because you are a bunch of money greedy MFs.
    “No aquarium, no tank in a marine land, however spacious it may be, can begin to duplicate the conditions of the sea. And no dolphin who inhabits one of those aquariums or one of those marine lands can be considered normal.”

    — Jacques Yves Cousteau, Oceanographe

  45. Cheryl Siebel says:

    Please release Lolita the beautiful orca!!! These whales do not belong in tanks. Animals are innocent victim’s of mans greed!!!

  46. eresa ravis says:

    Killer whales are wonderful wild creatures living in far north in pods…it is where they live in freedom but are less and less every year, according to National Geographic researchers. check out article in National Geograhic (the most honest journalism) I heard from other organisations like GreenPeace and Earth Justice and NRDC sue the U.S. Military because U.S.
    Military sonic noises are killing whales by blasting noises. Japan has suspended hunting and killing whales this year but said they will continue next year. Keep whale survival in your hearts / minds. Please help them by reading and learning more about whales. Free whales today are under multiple threats and assaults.

  47. Kelly-Louise Maloney says:

    The Miami Seaquarium has been violating the federal Occupational Safety and Health Act—the law that protects employees from deadly workplace hazards, such as swimming with wild orcas. Miami Seaquarium has been requiring trainers to swim with and even ride upon Lolita as she performs tricks in her tiny tank, despite the law.

    A panel of judges from the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals in SeaWorld of Florida v. Perez affirmed the decision below, which held that close contact with captive orcas is a recognized hazard, prohibited by the Occupational Safety and Health Act. Despite this clear ruling, as depicted in ALDF’s video footage of Lolita’s May 10, 2014 performance, the Miami Seaquarium continues to require its employees to put their lives on the line, all in the name of entertainment and profit. By doing so, they are inviting another tragic disaster like the one featured in Blackfish.

    Today, ALDF included exclusive video evidence of this ongoing occupational hazard in a complaint sent to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”). This complaint renews the request ALDF made first in November 2013, asking OSHA to investigate this blatant violation of the OSH Act.
    Video and report available for viewing at this link:
    http://aldf.org/blog/will-lolita-miami-seaquariums-lonely-orca-star-in-blackfish-sequel/#video

    I think an investigation is overdue. May I ask for your support in this case?

    Sincerely,

    Concerned member of the public

  48. kate ka says:

    free that poor creature at last !!!!!!!1

  49. Virginia Khan R.N. says:

    As someone who cares very, very deeply about ALL animals, but so much more so about those we humans use and abuse for entertainment, food, and so on, I wish to express my grief and outrage at the more than 3 decades of captivity endured by Lolita. This sweet, brave, intelligent being – torn away from her family, tormented and kept in a pathetic few gallons of water, kept away from everything that is natural to her. This is insanity; it is a terrible wrong, and a crime that MUST be corrected. She must live to swim free in the oceans, she must be reunited with her family. I live and hope for such a great day.

  50. Mark bastian says:

    It is time to free this poor girl, we want her free now!

  51. hayley says:

    The trainers in this establishment are either far too overpaid (thus look the other way) or they are just uncaring for the welfare of these animals. The dolphins must be very stressed in with such a large predator (and their death rate indicated this) and the tank is just FAR too small for an orca. The trainers are the ones who could really rally at this point and get Lolitas life changed. I’m just thankful they don’t breed her..

  52. Susan Bonta says:

    Lolita belongs back in the ocean with her mother & other family members, at their sanctuary. Seeing Lolita & other Orcas do tricks in small cement pools is not “gettng close to nature”. The acoustics in the pool are not the same as in the ocean. To us, it would be like being in jail, partially deaf, bored day after day, with no other human contact or interraction. Orcas are very socail & family oriented. Lolita still recognizes her mother’s calls. Please…let her go home.

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