Lolita, a captive killer whale in the Miami Seaquarium, has been given endangered protection.

The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) recently issued a final ruling, which extends the Endangered Species Act (ESA) listing to a killer whale in Miami Seaquarium.

"Lolita was captured in 1970 in Puget Sound before her population was listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act. At the time, captive members of the population did not share the endangered listing status. NOAA Fisheries received a petition in 2013 to include captive whales as part of the Southern Resident killer whales endangered species listing," stated NOAA Fisheries, West Coast Region.

The latest ruling will not impact the orca's stay in the Miami Seaquarium. Officials revealed that the final ruling is a listing decision and does not mean that Lolita has to be freed in the open waters.

The NOAA's new decision will not affect the captivity care that Lolita receives at the Florida facility nor will the decision impact the killer whale's captivity conditions.

Some animal rights groups have called the decision a major victory. The decision is believed to open the ways for the rights groups to argue that Lolita's living conditions actually violate the provisions of the federal endangered species law.

"Now that Lolita is protected, a whole host of remedy is open to us to demand that Lolita be treated with respect," said Jessica Blome, an attorney with the Animal Legal Defense Fund.

In 1970, Lolita was sold to Miami Seaquarium for $6,000. Since then, the killer whale has been entertaining visitors at the facility. In 2003, Lolita also became the subject of a documentary called Lolita: Slave to Entertainment, which revealed some of her living conditions in the Miami Seaquarium.

Some protesters suggest that Lolita is being treated cruelly at the aquarium.

The Orca Project Corp., a non-profit organization, also reveals that the tank in which Lolita stays does not have any shade structure, which makes the killer whale totally exposed to the sun. Miami is also prone to hurricanes, which means that Lolita is also exposed to hurricanes as its tank does not have a shade.

Activists believe that Lolita does not belong to the small tank in the Miami Seaquarium and should be released into the wild.

However, Robert Rose, curator of Miami Seaquarium, has made it clear that the orca will not be released or moved from the facility. The curator also expressed disappointment about the latest ruling.

ⓒ 2021 TECHTIMES.com All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.