On August 8, 1970, about 80 orcas were herded together in Penn Cove near Whidbey Island. Several whales were separated from their family with nets. Seven juveniles were captured. At least five whales drowned during the capture.
A total of 45 orcas were captured in the southern Salish Sea in the late 1960s and ’70s. The animals were sold to SeaWorld and other marine parks around the world. Tokitae was purchased by the Miami Seaquarium in September 1970 for $6,000. She is the last survivor of the orcas captured at that time. Today, Tokitae is 52 years old. She has spent 48 of those years in captivity.
Friends of Tokitae are advocating for the animal’s transfer to a large sea pen in the Salish Sea. There, Tokitae should recover from her time in the aquarium and become accustomed to the natural environment. The intention is then to carefully release her so she can return to her mother Ocean Sun (L25, 83 years old) and her entire L-pod family. Hopefully, this plan will come to pass soon.
Orcas have been held in captivity since 1961. Since then, at least 166 orcas have been captured in the wild. From 2012 to 2018, at least 29 orcas were captured in Russia and temporarily stored in the “Whale Prison.” Fifteen of them were sold to China and three to Moscow. Ten young orcas illegally captured in 2018 were returned to their natural habitat in the Sea of Okhotsk in 2019.
In August 2021, there are at least 57 orcas in captivity, of which 27 were captured and 30 were born in captivity.