Dear Friends of Lolita,
We've all seen what happened when Hurricane Katrina's wind and waves demolished homes and communities over an area nearly twice the size of Mississippi. The first priority is to take care of the people whose lives were torn apart and to begin to clean up and rebuild shattered communities.
If this disaster doesn't lead to some fundamental rethinking of how we live and where we build our towns and cities more horrible catastrophes are bound to happen. The example that concerns us on Lolita's behalf is the fact that the Miami Seaquarium sits directly in the path of future massive and deadly hurricanes. To avoid a calamity at the Seaquarium, federal officials responsible for the safety of captive marine mammals should close the park as soon as possible and relocate the mammals, birds, fish and turtles to safer places. Lolita, a healthy adult female orca, should be allowed to return to the safety of her home waters and her family of 90 related orcas in Washington State.
On August 25, four days before Katrina hit the Gulf Coast, the hurricane struck south Florida as a Category 1 storm, killing 11 people. The eye of the storm passed directly over the Miami Seaquarium between Key Biscayne and the mainland, sinking boats, damaging buildings and blowing down trees and power lines east and west of the Seaquarium. Three days later 27 percent of Miami-Dade County remained without electricity.
The Seaquarium has been tight-lipped about any damage and no news reports have surfaced to document the effects of the storm on the marine mammals and other animals held at the park. The park was closed to the public for three days.
Monster storms like Katrina will be hammering Florida with increasing frequency in the future because ocean temperatures are steadily rising as a result of global warming. The Seaquarium sits on a tiny man-made island between Key Biscayne and the mainland. The rim of the tank holding Lolita is about 15 feet above sea level, well under the 20-30 foot storm surge that Katrina pushed ashore along the Gulf. Study: Powerful hurricanes more common
Hurricanes like Katrina -- the most destructive such storm ever to hit the United States -- are becoming more common, according to a new study sure to fuel debate over whether global warming is to blame. Some interpret the changing number of storms to be part of natural variability, Holland said. But the variability in the past has been over 10 year periods, and this is sustained over 30 years. Webster added that sea surface temperatures "are rising everywhere in the tropics and that is not connected to any natural variability we know."
The Marine Life Oceanarium in Gulfport, Mississippi, an infamous dolphin sales and rental agency, was completely demolished by Katrina. Here is what the Humane Society of the US (www.hsus.org) has to say:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Media Contact: Polly O. Shannon, email@example.com, 301-721-6440 or 703-283-5104
POOR EVACUATION PLANS TO BLAME FOR CAPTIVE DOLPHINS BEING SWEPT OUT TO SEA BY KATRINA
HSUS Praises Rescue Officials But Warns "This Will Happen Again" if Facility is Allowed to Rebuild
The dolphins miraculously survived being left behind at the facility, but were swept out to sea as the storm surge overwhelmed their tank, an occurrence that should have been anticipated, given the urgent warnings and massive publicity about Katrina.
"What happened to these dolphins this time will happen again if the aquarium is rebuilt in the same location," Dr. Naomi Rose, marine mammal scientist for The HSUS, said. "We understand the owner is considering this, and the federal agencies responsible for the protection of captive marine mammals must not allow it. Marine Life Oceanarium was right on the shore in a hurricane zone. Katrina's destruction has validated our long-held concerns about all coastal public display facilities in the Gulf and Caribbean regions."
The HSUS recommends that all captive marine mammal facilities in hurricane prone zones reconsider the adequacy of their evacuation plans in light of this disaster.
Orca Network agrees whole-heartedly with this recommendation and calls for the immediate relocation of Lolita to her home and family.
You'll be hearing from us again soon to support the worldwide protest on October 8 against Japan's dolphin drive hunts at Japanese embassies everywhere. Go here
for more information on the protest.
There's also some brewing news coming up. Busch Entertainment, owners of Sea World, is lobbying the US congress to water down the Marine Mammal Protection Act even more than it already is. One of their desired amendments to the Act would allow marine parks to sell and ship marine mammals to any park around the world regardless of whether the foreign park maintained any space requirements or health and safety standards at all. This would allow the Seaquarium to sell Lolita to an even shabbier roadside attraction anywhere in the world. We'll help you with letters to your congressperson to make sure it doesn't happen.
And lastly, for those who have watched the saga of Luna, or L98, the solitary sociable orca from L pod (Lolita's family), he took a little trip out to the open Pacific on September 15, raising hopes that one of these days he'll hear his family and head on out to meet them. The full story
Best to everyone,
Howard Garrett, Susan Berta