Since her capture in 1970, Lolita has been kept in a tank that violates the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) standards for size requirements. APHIS is an operating unit of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).
Lolita is approximately 21 feet long and 7,000 pounds. Per the guidelines, the tank for a killer whale the size of Lolita must be a minimum of 48 feet wide in either direction with a straight line of travel across the middle. Lolita’s tank is only 35 feet wide from the front wall to the slide out (work island) barrier*. It is 20 feet deep at the deepest point and a mere 12 feet deep around the edges. The Miami Seaquarium is in need of major repairs, and per the Marine Mammal Inventory Report, has a substantial death rate for their animals.
*It is important to note that the work island barrier is a solid structure that continues from the surface of the water all the way to the bottom of the pool. That is, Lolita cannot swim under it. APHIS has recently stated that this work island is a floating formation that Lolita can swim underneath. This is incorrect. Please see the photo below for a photograph of Lolita’s tank without any water in it. It is clear the sides (base) of the work island extend to the bottom of the pool. Also, if the work island were floating, it would not be able to support the weight of Lolita (approx. 7,000 lbs.), as she completely rests on it during her show.
Per the guidelines:
- The primary enclosure for a Killer whale (Orcinus orca) must have a minimum horizontal dimension of no less than 48 ft. in either direction with a straight line of travel across the center.
- Each marine mammal requires its own minimum space regardless of age.
- Only enclosures that meet the minimum space requirements may be used for permanent housing purposes. [3.104(a)]
- Minimum Horizontal Dimension [3.104(c)(1)]. The MHD is the diameter of a circular pool of water.
- The required MHD is two times the average adult length of the longest species housed in the pool.
- Depth [3.104(c)(2)] The minimum depth of the pool must be: 5 feet OR ½ the average adult length of the longest species housed therein, whichever is greater (see Table III**)
**(Per Table III of the guidelines, the average adult length to factor for Orcinus orca ‘Killer whale’ is 24.0 feet.
In 1995 the Humane Society of the United States filed a formal complaint against Miami Seaquarium regarding the substandard size of Lolita’s tank. APHIS has yet to act. Fifteen years later, she is still in the substandard tank.
Applicable regulations directly from the APHIS Website:
Lolita’s tank with no water. Please note the work island sides extend to the bottom of the pool.