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Whidbey News-Times (August 11, 2017): Lummi Nation: Return Tokitae ‘to the place in her heart’

The Lummi Nation proclaimed it was joining efforts to bring Tokitae back to the Salish Sea, her family and the ‘place in her heart.’

“The songs she heard from her family are very real to her,” said Douglas James Jr. “That’s what’s playing in her heart. That’s what’s playing in her dreams. We need to do something. Let’s bring this last one home.”

The retirement plan envisions using a seapen in Eastsound, Orcas Island and a team of veterinary and scientific staff to gradually wean Lolita from a dead fish diet to foraging for live fish.

Proclamation passed August 1, 2017 by the Lummi Indian Business Council



2017 Penn Cove Orca Capture Anniversary Commemoration

August 8, 2017
Coupeville Wharf, Coupeville, Whidbey Island, Washington

Coupeville, Whidbey Island, WA – 47 years ago about 100 Southern Resident orcas were herded into Penn Cove off Whidbey Island, WA. Seven of the young whales were netted and delivered to marine parks around the world. All but one had died by 1987. Originally named Tokitae, they now call her Lolita. In memory of the nearly 40 Southern Resident orcas captured in Washington State, and in honor of Tokitae (Lolita), the sole survivor, please join Orca Network for our annual Penn Cove Capture Commemoration.

On Tuesday August 8th we will sponsor a series of events in Coupeville, WA to commemorate the 47th anniversary of the 1970 Penn Cove Orca Capture.

From 1:00 pm to 5:00 pm join us at the Coupeville Wharf for educational displays and information about Tokitae and the orca captures. From 3:00 to 5:00 the Cutty Sark and the Suva will provide ceremonial boat trips into Penn Cove to the capture site. Special speakers for the boat trip include Howard Garrett of Orca Network and Dr. Kriss Kevorkian who will speak of ‘Environmental Grief’. Tickets for the boat trip are $50. If you have your own boat or kayak please join us in Penn Cove for a procession to the capture site as we honor Tokitae and her family members who were captured in 1970.

Kayaks and small boats can be launched from Capt. Coupe Park in Coupeville, Monroe's Landing, or the DNR access on Madrona Way (note: parking permits are required for the use of DNR parking/beach access areas). We'll travel to the capture site in Penn Cove for a wreath ceremony to remember the orcas killed in the capture, and those who have died in captivity. We'll provide flowers and cedar sprigs to toss into the water, or you may bring your own flower or other eco-friendly offering to toss in the water during the ceremony.

After the on-the-water events, beginning at 5:00, there will be a waterside ceremony and special blessing on the dock by Rosie Cayou and Bill Bailey of the Samish Nation, followed by an event at the Coupeville Wharf including a presentation by Howard Garrett of Orca Network and special guest Nickolaus Dee Lewis of the Lummi Tribal Council. Light snacks will be provided. The 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.

Registration for the boat trip on the Cutty Sark or Suva is available HERE or on the Orca Network website. For questions please contact Cindy Hansen at


Orcas are highly intelligent and social marine mammals that typically swim 75-100 miles a day and repeatedly dive to several hundred feet. But Lolita is alone, is constantly exposed to intense low-latitude sunlight with no shelter, and cannot swim any distance in a pool that is less than twice her body length in width and not as deep as she is long.

Lolita has spent over 40 years at the Miami Seaquarium in an inhumanely undersized tank with no shade to protect her from direct sunlight and no protection from the weather, including hurricanes. Her exposure to sun and weather violates Section 3.103(3)(b) of the Animal Welfare Act.

In addition, Lolita's tank, which is the smallest orca tank in North America, is only 35 feet long from the edge of the pool to the trainer's platform; this is 13 feet shorter than is required by the Animal Welfare Act (Section 3.104). Even if, as specified in subsection (1)(i), the minimum horizontal dimension is reduced by 20% so that the required dimension is only 38.4 feet, the actual dimensions of the tank still fall 3.4 feet short of the minimum. Lolita is 22 feet long and weighs over 7,000 pounds. Her tank is incredibly confining for a marine mammal of her size.

Lolita is unique among all the captive orcas in North America in her potential to be returned to her orca family in her native waters. Lolita was captured in Puget Sound from the Southern Resident community of orcas, which is the most intensively and comprehensively researched cetacean population worldwide. She is a member of the L pod, and her mother is still alive. This orca community has intense, lifelong matrilineal bonds: the orcas never leave their mothers, forming large family groups with complex social systems. Lolita continues to make the unique calls of her L25 subpod, named for its 85-year-old matriarch. Her family pod still lives in Puget Sound. Because Lolita was old enough at capture to have learned how to catch fish and still speaks her pod's dialect, there is every reason to believe that she can be successfully reintegrated with her family in Puget Sound. And although at age 47 she may be the oldest surviving captive orca in the world, she is still a young, healthy adult; in the wild her potential lifespan will be much longer than it will be in captivity.

For these reasons, the Orca Network, with the assistance of the Center for Whale Research, has proposed a plan to retire Lolita from the Miami Seaquarium, reintroduce her to the Salish Sea, and eventually possibly reintegrate with her family. Lolita will be transported to an ocean sea pen in a protected cove in the San Juan Islands that offers both abundant salmon and access to her family pod. She will be fed and taken care of by humans while being reacclimated to life in the wild with supervised open-water swimming and interaction with her pod and extended family. If she decides to rejoin her pod, that will be the ideal outcome; if not, she will be lovingly cared for by humans while living the rest of her life in a natural environment with plenty of room to forage and play.

The owners of the Miami Seaquarium have been begged for decades to release Lolita to whale scientists who can reacclimate her to Puget Sound and reunite her with her orca family. The Seaquarium owners have adamantly refused to consider this. Instead they have kept her alone in her sunbaked tiny pool, where most of her time is spent floating listlessly with no social interaction.


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