Will Lolita Tokitae Ever See Her Family Again?

Lolita MSQ tank

Gratitude to Orca Network who have never tired in their efforts to free Lolita Tokiate fro the Miami Seaquarium and bring her  home to her L pod family in the Salish Sea. Gratitude to the Lummi Nation members who this year brought major involvement to the effort to bring her home. And gratitude to all those who show up outside the Seaquarium, who write letters, email, phone.

The Victoria Orca Festival Society was disbanded as the Board members had too much going on in teaching, other animal rights initiatives, and life in general.

Last summer I did not do my usual street action on August 8 – the anniversary date of Lolita Tokitae’s brutal capture – with individual letters, information, book giveaways (and free beer!  – after conversation, if you were really interested in Lolita Tokitae). Thanks Irish Times for putting up with me for 8 years, and sometimes more than once a year, outside your pub – I bought $100 of beer tickets every year to give away and hope that helped  :-)

The status of the Southern Residents was getting more and more hard to watch, while in Canada DFO and other officials did nothing, and dams weren’t breached in Washington.

This year, finally, Canada has closed a regional fishery to try to save some Chinook for the SRKWs.

But with the loss of Crewser, L92, at 23 years old, bringing the SRKW population down to 75 as of the end of June 2018, I am ashamed to say – ashamed because  Tokitae keeps going day after day, for what will be 48 years in prison in the substandard Seaquarium on August 8 – ashamed  because Orca Network has been involved for decades in the struggle to bring her home and reunite her with her remaining family, and Howard and Susan have not succumbed  to depression induced inertia – I could not bring myself to do a display in the Victoria Central Library this year, or set up the orca fin hat event in the library for kids and parents, or have a table at Fernfest community festival.

Victoria City Council did respond to my request to declare June Orca Month in the City, for the 3d year.

And it’s not August 8 yet. Can I look Lolita Tokitae in the eyes and say “I felt so much grief for your relatives  that  I did nothing”?

Maybe by the Inner Harbour, this year. The  orca topiary by the Inner Harbour  is the perfect place.

orca topiary

banner orca month small

orca month city vic 2018



2017 Letter Re: Retire L Pod Orca Lolita Tokitae To a Sea Pen In Her Home Waters


Thanks to the 70 people who signed letters at Fernfest June 17, 2017!  Over 8 years petitions and letters have been sent to

  • Arthur Hertz, former CEO of Wometco Enterprises
  • Andrew Hertz, Wometco Enterprises, General Manager of the Miami Seaquarium
  • Palace Entertainment (the Hertzes sold to Palace in 2014)
  • Parques Reunidos (HQ in Spain; owns Palace Entertainment)
  • Arle Capital (London, England; owns Parques Reunidos)

Candace Calloway Whiting has the “who owns Lolita Tokitae” history here.

Find out more about Lolita Tokitae on the Orca Network site.

Lolita Tokitae’s mom Ocean Sun (L 25, born 1928) still swims by this city with Lolita Tokitae’s family.

This year we are again writing to  Fernando Eiroa, who was moved up in the Parques Reunidos hierarchy and has moved from Newport Beach to Madrid last year.

If you missed us at Fernfest, here is this year’s letter for you to use. Each letter signed on the street or at a community event has been  sent by snail mail, hoping for a better impact. (Yes, that’s expensive but how could I look Lolita Tokitae in the eye and say “Sorry, the stamp was too expensive”?)

This is the first year in 8 years we will not  be on the street downtown today with letters and books and Orca Network  info (and beer tickets!) giveaways in front of the Irish Times pub (shout out to them for never asking me to move along – 2 hours beside their patio asking passersby to sign letters, book giveaways, info distribution). Please print and sign and send your letter to the owners of this officially substandard orca zoo. It’s well past time to retire Lolita Tokitae to a sea pen here in the San Juans

New documentary:

‘The Whale Bowl’ is a short documentary made by film students from Greenwich University in London, UK to help raise awareness about the plight of Lolita, the orca currently held at Miami Seaquarium.


Lolita Tokitae's prison cell

[Today’s date]

[Your address, physical address plus email  as you expect a reply]

Fernando Eiroa, CEO
Paseo de la Castellana, 216. 16th floor
28046 Madrid. Spain


Dear Mr. Eiroa and Palace Entertainment Officers and Board of Directors,

I am writing from the coast of Lolita’s home waters, from which she was taken as a baby August 8, 1970. As of August 8, 2017, she will have survived 47  years of captivity in the  Miami Seaquarium.

I request your active participation in allowing Lolita to be retired before she dies in your tank, and that she be returned to a sea pen in her home waters where her mother, Ocean Sun (L25) of L pod of the Southern Residents, still swims, along with Lolita’s extended family. There is a science based plan for her return and care in the “Lolita” section of OrcaNetwork.org. There is no significant risk to Lolita in any stage of Orca Network’s proposal for Lolita’s retirement in her home. Remaining in captivity will result in continuing and intensifying mental and physical stresses and related health issues.

It is a miracle that Lolita is still alive. All of the other 40+ members of her community who were captured and removed for display in theme parks before 1973 died by 1987, and yet Lolita somehow maintains her courage and her patience. She has endured the tragic suicide of her one-time companion Hugo (an orca also from her home waters, likely a relative with whom she could communicate; his tragic story here from Ric O’Barry) who bashed his head into the tank walls more than 30 years ago, in his teen years. She has been without the company of another orca for most of her years of performing at the Miami Seaquarium, although orcas are noted for their lifelong social and family connections.

When the Miami-Dade County Commission approved the sale of the Miami Seaquarium to Palace Entertainment, Commissioner Xavier Suarez asked, “Is there something that can be contemplated [to help Lolita]?” Commissioner Barbara Jordan asked, “Is there a retirement program for whales?”

The captive orca industry has lost credibility and stature over the last years. Public opinion has shifted to condemn confining cetaceans for human amusement and entertainment.

Parques Reunidos / Palace Entertainment has an opportunity to be on the right side of history by replacing cruel orca captivity with CGI / virtual reality encounters technology as a truly educational alternative. This decision would bring tremendous positive publicity. This is your chance to create a huge following of highly favourable public attention by providing assistance to help Lolita return home at long last, or to continue to find yourselves the object of increasing international disapprobation.

Lolita is middle aged by orca standards of longevity. Their life spans are very similar to ours. She could have many years of family connection. Please offer her the respect she deserves by playing a positive role in her much deserved retirement.

There are millions of people worldwide who would give great acclaim to Parques Reunidos and Palace Entertainment for supporting her retirement. I am one of them.

I’ve included my return address. Please reply and let me know what you are going to do to help get Lolita Tokitae home to the Salish Sea.


[Your signature – please print your name as well.]


miami sq aerial orca network


“Save Lolita” PSA:  Underdog Entertainment.


Do We Really Want To Be Orca Stalkers?

howard slide 1

Given the acoustic threats from shipping and Navy sonar, drastic reduction in the availability of Chinook salmon – the 78 remaining Southern Resident Killer Whales‘ preferred food –  and the continuing pollution of the Salish Sea, whale watching boats may be relatively the least harmful of all the threats the dwindling SRKWs face. But still, that doesn’t mean “no effects“. Isn’t it time we backed off and gave this endangered group of highly intelligent family bonded sea beings their lives back, and stopped stalking them every day we can find them?

Hakai Magazine, “On the Trail of Whales”, May 24, 2016:

Whale watching as a boat-based business dates to California, circa 1955, in the waters around San Diego, when a fishing boat skipper charged a buck per person to anyone wishing to see gray whales. Today, the whale watching industry is worth an estimated US $2.1-billion worldwide. In some countries, the industry polices itself, adhering (or not) to voluntary guidelines; in others, the government has regulations, though enforcement is spotty. Regulations govern certain actions, such as how close to whales a boat can operate: in the United States, it’s 183 meters (200 yards); Canada only has a guideline of 100 meters. Engine noise has scientists and whale lovers worried. There is no question about the negative short-term effects of noise pollution on whales and other cetaceans, including dolphins and porpoises, that communicate via underwater sound waves. The long-term effects of this bedlam below the waves, however, are a little fuzzier. Imagine living most of your day being followed by an out-of-tune mariachi band: a bit weird and kind of fun at first, but then annoying and, ultimately, nerve-[w]racking.

Published in the Times Colonist, Victoria, June 18, 2017:

The Editor, Times-Colonist:

June is Orca Month in Washington State, Oregon, BC and the City of Victoria. It’s time to consider some next steps in coexistence with orcas, the “minds in the waters”. From a possible population high of 98 in 1995 or possibly higher in periods before they could be accurately identified and counted (thanks to Dr. Michael Bigg) , the Southern Resident Killer Whales (SRKWs) RKWs are now listed as “endangered” by the Canadian Species at Risk Registry and the US Fish and Wildlife Service. The population now totals 78, with 24 in J Pod, 19 in K Pod, and 35 in L Pod.

We now know that orcas are family bonded, cognitively, culturally and  linguistically complex and are self-aware.  Their brains have structures for emotional learning that we do not have, and extensive acoustic and cognitive structures we do not fully understand. We know that SRKW pods swim up  to 156 km daily  in the Salish Sea and coastal waters of Washington, Oregon, and California.

Early captives taken from the wild and confined in marine zoos paid for what we learned from them with their lives, and their families and extended clan groups paid with failing viability of the population. (Local L pod orca Lolita Tokitae is the last living SRKW wild captive, held  since 1970 in the smallest tank in North America, the substandard Miami Seaquarium. ) We now may be watching extinction at work, due to increasing acoustic assaults, dwindling food supply and toxins discharged into their home.

Massive declines in salmon populations over the past 100 years have made it harder for the orcas to find food. Bodies of the males qualify as toxic waste, as they do not offload toxins in milk while nursing babies. Increasing ocean noise makes it harder for orcas to communicate with each other and to find food.

The remaining 78 SRKWs are surrounded by buzzing boats any time they can be found. Can anyone say “watching” them during every daylight hour as often as their location can be determined for every day of their lives in the “whale watching season”, April to October, is helping them?  Put yourself in the orcas’  place. It’s as if you had neighbours who never turned off the leaf blower, lawn mower, or the loud music. Studies have shown behavioural changes in response to both noise and the presence of boats.

One  next step in supporting the Southern Residents’ struggle to regain population viability is a retreat from entertaining ourselves by  chasing and stressing individuals of this endangered population in the wild. We now have the technology – underwater cameras and hydrophones– to see and hear them while allowing them the dignity of living their lives free from our desire to be entertained by them as they simply try to survive. Occasionally we can see orcas from a ferry. They can be seen from land, and organizations like The Whale Trail have identified likely spotting places.  It is time to allow accredited researchers only to have access to boat-based “whale watching” , and time to stop exploiting an endangered population as a commercial tourist attraction.

Diane McNally has followed orca research since 1968, and organizes annual  City of Victoria Orca Month events.

June 3/17: Book Display for Orca Month Greater Victoria Public Library

Proclamation 2017

Thank you to Mayor Lisa Helps and Victoria City Council for the Second Proclamation of Orca Month in the City of Victoria!



Thank you to the Greater Victoria Public Library, Main Branch, for the space to set up the display! That is a Chinook salmon tail – Chinook is the SRKW’s favourite  food –  behind the books.

2017 06 03 Display top shelf

Beneath the Surface: John Hargrove, 2015

Orca, the Whale Called Killer: Erich Hoyt, 1981

Into Great Silence: Eva Saulitis, 2013

Death at Sea World: David Kirby, 2012

Killer Whales: John Ford, Graeme Ellis, Ken Balcomb, 1994

2017 06 03 Display mid shelf

Proclamation, Province of British Columbia, and City of Victoria

Orcas In Our Midst III: Howard Garrett, 2011

Spyhop photo credit: Alexandra Morton

Listening to Whales: Alexandra Morton, 2002

Three Brothers photo credit: Maria Chantelle Tucker (Peronino)

Marine Mammals of the Pacific Northwest: Pieter Folkens, 2001

Retire Lolita!

2017 06 03 Display mid shelf 2

Orca Chief: Roy Henry Vickers and Robert Budd, 2015

Canadian Mint,  Orca coin package, 2011

Canadian Geographic : Bruce Obee, 1992

Orca shirt: Orca Network, The Orca Project, Voice of the Orcas websites


2017 06 03 Display bottom shelf

Granny’s Clan: Dr. Sally Hodson, 2012

Orca temporary tattoo: Roger Purdue

Fragile Waters: 2014

Orcas In Our Midst II: Howard Garrett, 2004

Orca card: Sue Coccia

Orca design sweater: Cowichan knitters, 1994



2017 06 03 Display List To Whales

L pod orca Lolita Tokitae has been captive in a substandard tank since 1970. This, below, is her prison where she lives, instead of her ocean home, with her family and mother Ocean Sun, about 85,  who still swims by Victoria BC, and throughout  the family’s territory.  Come to FernFest June 17, and sign an individual letter to Miami Seaquarium, asking them – again – to do the right thing and let Lolita Tokitae return to her home waters in a sea pen, cared for by humans for as long as she wants that.


Lolita MSQ tank

Lolita Tokitae’s prison, Miami