Penn Cove orca roundup recalled

More than 70 people gathered on the shores of Penn Cove Friday evening for Orca Network’s annual commemoration of the 1970 Penn Cove orca capture in which “Lolita” was taken.

This year the event focused not only on Lolita, the L-pod orca who has spent the last 33 years in the Miami Seaquarium, but also on Luna, the other “missing” L pod whale, who wandered from his mother and pod and has been living alone in B.C.’s Nootka Sound since July 2001.

Speakers Friday included Howard Garrett of Orca Network, telling the history of the campaign to free Lolita from the Seaquarium, and offering reasons why both Lolita and Luna should be returned to their family.

Diane Gardetto was the featured speaker regarding Luna’s situation. She had just returned to San Juan Island after spending time in Nootka Sound working with the Luna Stewardship project to educate people about Luna and attempt to keep him from harm.

“Gardetto’s stories and photos showed just how precarious Luna’s situation is, as thousands of people flock to the dock at Gold River to see and try to pet him, and how his endless pursuit of boats and people is putting him in imminent danger,” said Susan Berta, Orca Network co-founder.

Gardetto told the crowd, half of which consisted of visitors from the mainland, that Luna would not suffer from the loneliness he has experienced the past two years and would likely leave boats and humans alone if returned to his pod, much as Springer did once she was returned to her pod in Canada.

Springer left her pod in Puget Sound, but was finally returned to her pod last year thanks to a boat provided by Nichols Brothers Boat Builders of Whidbey Island.

Former Washington Secretary of State Ralph Munro spoke on the value of the Orca Network’s Whale Sighting Network and his support of the campaigns to bring Lolita and Luna home.

State Rep. Phil Rockefeller talked of his efforts to provide more legal protection to orca whales.

The event included educational displays, a silent auction and waterside ceremony in honor of all the orcas captured and killed during the 1960s and ‘70s.

According to Berta, these captures removed nearly half of the total population of the Southern Residents, “the effects of which are still being felt today as they struggle to survive and sustain themselves.”

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