Nearing the anniversary of the 1970 Penn Cove orca captures, the Orca Network plans to remember the orcas killed during the captures in 1970, and honor Lolita or Tokitae, the sole survivor who has been held at the Miami Seaquarium since 1970.
The Penn Cove captures remain one of the darkest periods ever in the history of man and orca. Lolita, originally named Tokitae, was one of the first mammals captured at Whidbey Island, Washington in 1970. She has been on display at the Miami Seaquarium in Florida ever since.
Lolita is the last surviving orca of about 45 members of the Southern Resident community that endured a brutal capture that killed several other killer whales. Those caught were delivered for display in marine parks between 1965 and 1973. Today, only Lolita remains alive.
Dr. Terry Newby
The Penn Cove captures (1970).
Lolita, lives in the smallest tank in the world at Miami Seaquarium. Her tank size has long been deemed illegal under the Animal Welfare Act. Yet despite repeated requests to the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Services (APHIS) for intervention, Lolita has lived in this tank for 42 years.
The Orca Network
An aerial shot of Lolita's tiny tank at the Miami Seaquarium.
August 8 will mark the day that Lolita was pulled from her home and family, tied to a flatbed truck and driven to Seattle for delivery to Miami. The Orca Network, a non-profit organization registered in Washington State is dedicated to raising awareness about the whales of the Pacific Northwest, and the importance of providing them healthy and safe habitats.
Each year in Coupeville, on the waters and shore of Penn Cove, the group gathers to remember all the orcas who died during the captures or during captivity, and they honor Lolita, the sole survivor of those taken from the Southern Resident orcas.
This year, on Wednesday August 8th, from 4 - 6 pm, the Orca Network will host a ceremonial cruise on Penn Cove, Whidbey Island, around the perimeter of the capture site. Here they will host a wreath ceremony to remember the orcas taken from these waters.
Dateline NBC still shot. Courtesy The Orca Network
Lolita listening to her family’s calls in 1995, the only time she’s heard them since her capture in 1970, shown on Dateline NBC.
Following the on-the-water events, a few short presentations are planned for 6 pm at the Coupeville Wharf. Music will also be provided from the Shifty Sailors, and stories of the captures will be shared. The Orca Network has campaigned for Lolita's release since 1995 and even has a retirement plan in place for the whale. The group will discuss the captive orca issue and the decimation of the Southern Resident orca population that was declared endangered in 2005.
The two-hour cruise with special guests costs $40 per person and has limited space. Another vessel will be made available for those who wish to participate in the on-the-water portion of the event, for a $30 fee. Event-goers may also participate with their own vessels and launch from Capt. Coupe Park in Coupeville and join up with the existing fleet at Coupeville Wharf for a 4 pm group departure.
The Orca Network will provide flowers and cedar sprigs to toss into the water during the ceremony. Participants may bring their own flowers or other eco-friendly offerings to toss in the water as well. The post-cruise event on the Wharf is free to the public, though contributions to support Orca Network's educational programs and work on orca captivity issues, are appreciated.
For further details on the Penn Cove Orca Capture Anniversary, contact the Orca Network at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit Orca Network.org for more information and updates, or to reserve a space on one of the sailing vessels.
The video appears courtesy of Nikki Gianni. The Southern Resident orca population is still trying to recover from the captures at Penn Cove. Today there are only 85 orcas in the pods of Washington State.