Is the tide turning for captive whales and dolphins?

My good friend and colleague Samantha Goddard has just sent me this exciting news!

The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) ruled on the 4th February that Lolita, a wild-caught orca originally belonging to the Southern Resident population off the coast of Washington State, will be classified as “endangered” under the Endangered Species Act.

A statement released by NOAA reads: “As presented in the proposed rule we find that Lolita’s captive status, in and of itself, does not preclude her listing under the ESA. Accordingly, we are removing the exclusion for captive whales in the regulatory language describing the Southern Resident killer whale DPS [distinct population segment]. The best available genetic information and sighting history of killer whales supports recognizing Lolita as a member of the Southern Resident killer whale population and, as such, is not excluded from the listed Southern Resident killer whale DPS.”

Wow! Is this another, important step towards ending the captive exploitation of these amazing creatures?

For decades activists have worked for Lolita’s release, and a rehabilitation plan for her has already been proposed by Howard Garrett of The Orca Network who said: “This ruling is a huge step toward interjecting some mandated concern for Lolita’s health and welfare that can override the strictly monetary considerations that got her there in the first place. Our society doesn’t like animal abuse, and the more we learn about orcas the less we can tolerate seeing them locked up as circus acts.

He goes on to say that “things that seemed impossible a year ago seem doable today”. That is how we all felt more than 30 or more years ago when there were numerous captive dolphin shows in the UK (and even, for a while, a captive orca on Clacton Pier). How things have changed! There have been no captive dolphins or whales in the UK since the early 1990’s and I don’t believe the British public would tolerate their return should any money-mad entrepreneur be crazy enough to try.

At least here we have become a ‘Dolphin Free Zone’ and maybe, just maybe. the news about Lolita, coming, as it does, on the back of The Cove and Blackfish marks another tidal change in then human/cetacean relationship.

By rejecting captive exploitation, we embrace a more compassionate agenda based on keeping wildlife in the wild. That is the Born Free way and so hats off to all engaged in the struggle for Lolita, Corky, the Taiji dolphins and so many more around the world!

Blogging off!


P.S. Have you heard about Springer?

Springer lost her mother when just a baby. She was found disorientated, swimming near Seattle, USA, too small to survive alone. Thankfully she was identified by her unique calls and reunited with her family pod near Vancouver Island, Canada.  The entertainment industry wanted to keep her in captivity, but she was rescued and reunited with her wild family pod.

She now swims free and recently gave birth to a calf of her own. Springer and her calf Spirit are monitored and kept safe by Dr Paul Spong and his colleagues at Orcalab.  Born Free has supported this work since 1994. You can adopt her today from just £2.50 per month

One Response to “Is the tide turning for captive whales and dolphins?”

  1. hamana asma Says:

    great step yes, indeed still a lot has to be done . In Taiji Japan everyday the cove runs red thanks to the monstruous criminal activities of killers. thousands of dolphins are killed evey year. this has to stop .