On Monday, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) sued the Miami Seaquarium and its parent company, saying they are violating the Endangered Species Act by keeping a killer whale named Lolita in captivity.
Lolita was captured off the coast of Washington in 1970, when she was between 3 and 6 years old. In a complaint filed in the Southern District of Florida, PETA argues that "for more than 40 years, Lolita has been unable to swim any meaningful distance, dive, forage, or carry out virtually any natural behaviors." They say her tank is one of the smallest in the world, at 80 feet long, 60 feet wide, and 20 feet deep; she is forced to perform seven days a week; and she has been alone since her tank mate, another orca named Hugo, died in 1980. Earlier this year, the federal government added the orca to the endangered species list.
In a statement, the Miami Seaquarium said it "provides first-class care for Lolita. She remains healthy and thriving after 45 years of residency." Activists say they want Lolita to go back to the waters where she was captured, living in a netted-off area where she can learn to hunt and communicate with other orcas before being released, Reuters reports. Critics of this plan, including the Miami Seaquarium, say she is well cared for and being released would be "cruel and traumatic." Federal courts have rejected several previous PETA lawsuits trying to free Lolita.