STORY BY SARAH MATTES
By now most of the world has either seen or heard of the 2013 documentary Blackfish, which details the life of Tilikum, a SeaWorld orca whale, and the controversy surrounding the captivity of orca whales in general.
The American public has been concerned about the captivity of these extraordinary creatures for more than 20 years and every couple years a movie or book is released that causes a resurgence of the protest movement. This happened yet again just three weeks ago.
On Feb. 4, 2015, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) declared Lolita, an orca whale held in captivity for 44 years at Miami Seaquarium, a member of the endangered species list alongside her orca family in the wild. PETA petitioned that she join the endangered species list.
Long before PETA began their petition, another petition was created. Three years ago, a petition on Change.org was started with the end goal of releasing Lolita back into the wild to live the rest of her days beside her family. The petition closed with over 10,000 supporters.
Lolita is being kept in an 80 by 60 foot wide and 20 foot deep tank and is forced to live alone, both of which are illegal in the state of Florida. Orcas are very social and interactive animals. With no companions to surround her, Lolita has been isolated for more than 40 years in a small enclosed whale bucket.
The question now is will Miami Seaquarium release Lolita? She deserves to spend the rest of her life outside the four concrete walls she knows so well and allowed to explore the vast ocean where she belongs.
In the wild, orcas live in large family pods consisting of five to 25 members. All wild orcas live with free will and freedom of movement, whereas the free will and freedom of movement of orcas in captivity are taken away completely. Many supporters of SeaWorld and Miami Seaquarium believe that these institutions are protecting the animals, researching them and educating the public about them. These are all myths.
According to a study for the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society in Chippenham, United Kingdom, the information that these institutions are sharing with the public is inaccurate and completely unrelated to that of orcas in the wild. Places such as SeaWorld give visitors false information regarding the differences seen in wild orcas versus orcas in captivity, regardless of the research and studies out there that can prove everything they say wrong.
The cruelty and lies need to be stopped once and for all. Orca whales being held captive throughout the world need to be released to the wild in order to enjoy their remaining years and become a functioning part of the oceanic community. As for the older orcas who have been in captivity for too long, they can be released into a netted-off area of the ocean while the young ones will be released to live within their natural habitat.
Release the innocent animals. Allow them to enjoy their lives as we enjoy ours.