Originally captured and brought to the Miami Seaquarium in 1970, the orca is the last remaining Southern Resident killer whale alive in captivity. In 2005, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) put the Southern Resident population on the endangered and protected species list.
“We find the biological information regarding Lolita’s genetic heritage and consideration of captive individuals under the [Endangered Species Act] meets this standard,” the agency said in a notice on Wednesday afternoon.
Now the agency wants to hear from the public. NOAA is publishing the information request in Monday's Federal Register and is accepting comments for 60 days.
If the agency decides to put Lolita on the list, it will seek more public comments before finalizing a decision.
While there are about 50,000 total orcas worldwide, there are only 85 Southern Resident killer whales.