In 1970, more than 90 orcas were stalked and herded into a three-acre net by deafening explosives, speedboats and airplanes at Puget Sound, a deep inlet of the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Washington. Alongside the hired captors was Terry Newby, a young marine mammal researcher (in the red and blue sweater). Images taken by Dr. Newby himself tell the story of the horrific captures that led to a lifetime of confinement and exploitation of orcas in marine parks and aquariums around the world.
Once the 80 orcas were corralled and trapped, boats with scuba divers circled the pens and monitored the orcas day and night to prevent anyone from helping them escape.
Confined and desperate, the orcas futilely searched for a way out. Their frantic cries reverberated over the cove and were heard for miles. The squeals, clicks and shrills were so disturbing and deafening that Dr. Newby says that
Panicked and stressed, the
orcas lifted themselves high,
hoping to be rescued by their family members outside the nets.
When an older male was present, the captured orcas cried out to him for help, but being in the same predicament, he was unable to do anything.
Young calves were torn from their mothers inside the pens using speedboats and nets. The helpless mothers could do nothing but watch their children be taken away. They would never see them again.
Seven frightened young orcas, fighting with everything they had, were pulled closer
They never stood a chance in their last attempt to escape and were lifted out of their ocean homes,
Lolita, one of seven captured orcas, takes a final glimpse at her home and family before she is ripped from the ocean. She is the only living orca from the captures and has spent more than 40 years confined at the Miami Seaquarium.
The boats delivered the orcas to a dock opposite of Captain Whibey Inn on the north side of Penn Cove. From there they were loaded onto flat bed trucks to be transported to the Seattle Aquarium. Little did they know their suffering had just begun. They were on their way to marine parks around the world, including SeaWorld, to perform and die in tiny cement pools.
In Puget Sound between 1970 and 1971 ten orcas were captured from their ocean homes. Half of those were sent to SeaWorld. Some only survived a few months; all died prematurely with the exception of Lolita who still lives at the Miami Seaquarium.
During the 15 years of capture in Washington and British Columbia:
In 1976, Washington State sued SeaWorld for violating its permits during the violent captures, and the court ruled in favor of outraged citizens and Dr. Newby, who testified against the capturing of orcas in Puget Sound. SeaWorld was included by name in the court's decision prohibiting orcas from being forcibly removed from their rightful ocean home.
Orcas belonging to the Southern Resident orca population in the Pacific Northwest have been classified as endangered and Dr. Newby believes that the mercenary and merciless captures of orcas in Puget Sound contributed to the problem. The National Marine Fisheries Service, in an official report, concurred:
“The capture of killer whales for public display during the 1970s likely depressed their population size and altered the population characteristics sufficiently to severely affect their reproduction and persistence.”
SeaWorld's history of confining and exploiting orcas is appalling, including premature orca deaths, avoidable orca injuries, and the death of a trainer. Honor all the orcas torn from their home in the 1970 and 1971 captures and forced to perform at SeaWorld and the other 28 orcas confined today at SeaWorld in Orlando, San Diego, and San Antonio and at Loro Parque in Tenerife Spain. Never go to SeaWorld. Ask SeaWorld to immediately set in place a firm and rapid plan to release the animals to protected sea pens that would allow them greater freedom of movement; the ability to see, sense, and communicate with their wild cousins and other ocean animals, feel the tides and waves; and engage in the behaviors that they’ve long been denied.