The legal battle to determine whether captive killer whales — specifically Lolita — should be considered part of the endangered orca population has been taken out of the courtroom by parties in the case.
A settlement agreement (PDF 284 kb) was signed two weeks ago between the National Marine Fisheries Service — which enforces the Endangered Species Act for marine mammals — and animal rights advocates who would like something better for this isolated animal.
Lolita is a female killer whale from Puget Sound who has been kept in a tank in Miami for 42 years.
The agreement essentially puts the lawsuit on hold pending a formal petition process under the ESA. Otherwise, the Animal Legal Defense Fund, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and others in the case would be left to argue about missed deadlines and proper legal notice to the federal government. See U.S. District Judge Benjamin Settle’s ruling (PDF 48 kb).
Reading between the lines, I can imagine a conversation between
lawyers for the two sides: