Press Releases

DelBene, Salazar Call for Answers about Status of Captive Puget Sound Orca at Miami Seaquarium

Today, Congresswomen Suzan DelBene (WA-01) and Maria Salazar (FL-27) led a call for answers about the status of Tokitae – also known as Lolita – the world’s oldest captive orca who has lived at the Miami Seaquarium since she was captured from the Puget Sound in 1970. The Seaquarium has recently been met with controversy due to facility conditions and concerns about Tokitae’s welfare.

Earlier this year, the Seaquarium changed ownership and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) issued a license to the new owner under the Animal Welfare Act. This license unusually excluded coverage of Seaquarium’s Whale Stadium, where Tokitae and her companion, a dolphin named Lii, both reside. USDA has never issued a license that does not cover all the licensee’s facilities and animals. Because these two animals are also covered under the Marine Mammal Protection Act and Endangered Species Act, this decision by USDA raises significant concerns about the animals’ legal status and welfare.

In a letter, the lawmakers ask federal officials one major question: what protections do Tokitae and Lii have if they are not covered under the Animal Welfare Act exhibitor’s license?

“Our responsibility to Southern Resident Killer Whales extends far beyond the Puget Sound. We must ensure our animal welfare laws are fully enforced to protect these icons of the Pacific Northwest and I thank my colleagues for their bipartisan support in this effort,” said DelBene.

“Lolita is a Miami treasure, and we must ensure her safety and well-being. The federal government needs to step up and I am calling on the appropriate authorities to help provide the proper attention and care that she needs,” said Salazar.         

Representatives Rick Larsen (WA-02), Adam Schiff (CA-28), Frederica Wilson (FL-24), Jared Huffman (CA-02), Nicole Malliotakis (NY-11), Brian Mast (FL-18), and Ted Deutch (FL-22) also joined the letter, which can be found here