This Week in Whales: Critical Court Hearing for the Orca Morgan

News in the world of whales this week (or close to it).

Morgan in captivity at Loro Parque, Tenerife, Spain - © Ingrid Visser/Free Morgan Foundation

Morgan in captivity at Loro Parque, Tenerife, Spain - © Ingrid Visser/Free Morgan Foundation

Lawyers and activists are preparing for next week’s (November 1) hearing in Amsterdam over the case of Morgan, the killer whale.  Morgan was captured in June 2010 in the Wadden Sea under a rehabilitation and release permit.  She was found separated from her family, underweight, and suffering from dehydration.  Dolfinarium Harderwijk – a Dutch marine mammal theme park – helped Morgan regain strength and then promptly undermined and ignored the rehabilitation and release permit by putting her on display and giving experts select information so they would agree that she could not be released back into the wild.

The majority of killer whale experts changed their opinions after getting all the facts.  Most importantly, that Morgan’s likely family has been identified (the Norwegian killer whale stock) and that a credible and funded Rehabilitation and Release Plan was developed by the Free Morgan Foundation, which was formed to get Morgan back to her family in Norway.  Nonetheless, despite challenges in court, less than a year and a half after Morgan was captured, she was transferred to Loro Parque – a massive amusement park in the Canary Islands.  According to the Free Morgan Foundation, Morgan is bullied, attached, and harassed by the other killer whales in captivity at Loro Parque.

NRDC sent a letter of support to Jean-Michel Cousteau – a Free Morgan Foundation Expert Board Member – highlighting the failure of the permitting agencies and the courts to properly assess and weigh the conservation benefits to the Norwegian killer whale population from Morgan’s potential rehabilitation to the wild.  Uncertainties about the long-term status of the Norwegian killer whale population and the status of their prey species (North Atlantic spring-spawning herring) should have been thoroughly examined.  While rehabilitation would certainly be the best for Morgan individually, it would also benefit a species that faces threats from acoustic pollution, chemical pollution, overfishing of their food sources, and uncertainties related to climate change.

I hope you can join NRDC in supporting the Free Morgan Foundation’s work, in particular by signing the Free Orca Morgan petition at change.org.

About the Authors

Zak Smith

Senior Attorney, Marine Mammal Protection Project, Land & Wildlife Program

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