After spending years organizing protests calling for the freedom of orca Lolita, Shelby Proie got to see the marine mammal’s original home for the first time Aug. 8. She participated in a ceremony organized by the Orca Network that commemorated the Penn Cove Orca Capture.
Proie joined about 20 other people onboard the Cutty Sark to tour the two capture sites on Penn Cove. One site is located near the San de Fuca pier and the other is located near Captain Whidbey Inn.
Ten orcas were rounded up and captured while several others were killed in 1970 and 1971. The captured marine mammals were sold to various aquariums and sea entertainment parks across the country, according to the Orca Network.
Lolita, who is also known as Tokitae, is the last living orca and remains in the Miami Seaquarium. Several organizations are trying to free the orca.
Proie, who recently earned a graduate degree from The Evergreen State College, has spent years organizing monthly protests in front of the aquarium.
“I just tried to raise public awareness,” Proie said of her efforts.
During the two-hour voyage last week, Proie threw a wreath into the waters of Penn Cove while other passengers onboard tossed red and white roses.
John Stone, who captained the Cutty Sark, said he lived in the area at the time of the roundup and said it was horrible to see the sentient orcas get lured into Penn Cove.
“They weren’t coming in for food, they were coming in to be captured,” Stone said.
Following the sailing through Penn Cove, a movie titled “Blackfish” was shown at the Coupeville Middle and High School Performing Arts Center.
The movie is about a performing orca whale that killed several people while in captivity.
Howard Garrett with the Orca Network highlighted the current litigation underway to free Lolita/Tokitae. He noted two different efforts on behalf of the captive orca.
The first is a petition to have Lolita included as a member of the southern resident orca pod. If she is included, then the Endangered Species Act would apply to her. If that would happen, he said Lolita couldn’t be exploited, harassed or endangered.
The second is an effort to have the United States Department of Agriculture rescind the annual permit allowing the Seaquarium to house Lolita.
He said the Orca Network is a party to the litigation along with the Animal Legal Defense Fund and the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.
For more information go to www.orcanetwork.org