Is captivity harmful to whales

Orcas in captivity

Hunting orcas in Penn Cove

In August 1970, more than 80 orcas were rounded up in Penn Cove (near Puget Sound in Washington State, USA). Seven of them were captured and sold to dolphinariums. At least five orcas suffocated in the nets, the others were released or escaped. The population of the Southern Resident Orcas is now acutely threatened with extinction due to these fishing activities.

Only one of the killer whales caught at the time is still alive: Lolita (Tokitae). She has been held in captivity at the Miami Seaquarium in Florida since 1970. Long legal proceedings demanding the release of Lolita have so far been unsuccessful. Her family is one of the Southern Resident Orcas. Presumably her mother is Oceano Sun (L-25), who was born around 1930. She and the rest of the family are still swimming in the waters from which Tokitae was snatched.

Despite the long time in captivity, she still uses the distinctive calls of her family group. In 2005, the Southern Residents were recognized as an endangered species and have been protected by the US Endangered Species Act since then. Tokitae was only officially granted this status in 2015.

Between 1965 and 1973, a total of 45 members of the Southern Residents were captured and taken to dolphinariums. Only Tokitae of them lives today. At least 13 other family members died during the fishing campaign. Only Corky, a member of the Northern Resident Orca population, has been in captivity for a long time. It was wrested from its natural habitat in 1969 and is kept at SeaWorld park in San Diego.

The following video shows terrifying footage of the brutal trapping operations. It also includes the first interview with the diver John Crowe, who was responsible for the disappearance of the bodies of the dead orcas that did not survive the stressful and brutal capture operation during the action in Penn Cove. In this way the deceased individuals were not counted towards the catch quota.

Thank you to Baby Wild Films for allowing us to show this video.