MIAMI, FLORIDA — On Thursday, Miami Seaquarium announced an agreement with the nonprofit group Friends of Lolita to return a retired killer whale back to its original ocean habitat in the Pacific Northwest.
Pressure to free Lolita gained momentum in 2013 after the documentary “Blackfish” highlighted the captivity of orca whales. Animal rights advocates fought in courts for years to free Lolita after the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) placed orcas on the endangered species list in 2015.
Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava told reporters at a news conference that the process has already been years in the making. The ownership of the whale was transferred to The Dolphin Company when they acquired the Miami Seaquarium in 2022. The company later partnered with the nonprofit to provide medical care to the whale.
“Finding a better future for Lolita is one of the reasons that motivated us to acquire the Miami Seaquarium,” The Dolphin Company’s Chief Executive Eduardo Albor said in a statement.
The 57-year-old, 5,000-pound orca was captured in 1970 in a cove off Seattle, Washington. Now, trainers are planning to release the whale within two years, pending federal approval.
Although the journey to the Pacific Northwest will likely be stressful for Lolita, the Dolphin Company says orcas are highly social mammals with no natural predators and can live up to 80 years. They hope Lolita will enjoy the rest of her life in freedom.