Letter from Jo Anne Johnson
Maui County Councilmember

Dear Ms. Suarez- (Miami Mayor's office)

I am deeply disappointed with your response on behalf of the Mayor with
regard to the deplorable situation at the Seaquarium and the owner's
insistence on keeping Lolita in captivity. Enough is enough!

In Maui County we have enacted a total ban on the display and exhibition of cetaceans. As the introducer of this legislation, our Council unanimously
voted to ban this type of sideshow and chose instead to allow our visitors
to view these beautiful creatures in their natural habitat.

I am well aware of all of the arguments that have been raised under the
Marine Mammal Protection Act and also the position that the National Marine Fisheries has taken on pre-emption. We maintained that the takings issue was covered under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, however once the animal is "taken" it then comes under the purview of APHIS.

The issue is not complicated if viewed in pure economic terms. If Lolita has
exceeded the life expectancy of all other orca's kept in captivity, then her
value as an "asset" to the seaquarium is likely fully depreciated. If you
should enact a ban on the display and exhibition, the issue will likely
hinge on economic considerations and the total cost of "damages" to the
facility. If the economic value of Lolita is "O" then how can an argument be made that you would be harming the facility in an economic sense? Perhaps you should charge the owner of the Seaquarium with kidnapping and holding her against her will and without the permission of her family and have them look at the costs for defending that case!!! I am sure that the Humane Society of the United States would assist in some manner and welcome the publicity.

The political will of your local government is the single determining factor
that seems to be lacking. If funds could be raised worldwide to aid you in
in banning this type of attraction, would it make a difference to you? If
Lolita dies in captivity, will you then permit a replacement for her?

I believe you would gain much more support for your local economy by acting in an enlightened and compassionate manner. We have had thousands of signatures on petitions and e-mails from all around the world thanking our Council for this ban. Many of these same individuals stated that their decision to vacation in our area was influenced solely by our actions.

The message has traveled worldwide and is continuing to bolster our local
economy. The fact that Maui has done better than our sister islands is no
coincidence. If you were to support Lolita's return to her family can you
imagine the press coverage that you would be getting? We are working with the Boys and Girls Clubs to take the message nationwide that Lolita should be freed. Will this portray your area in a favorable light? Will it bring you good fortune?

These are the issues that you must weigh when considering the future of your city. I implore you to consider the huge economic impacts that are dependent on your success or failure in marketing your local attractions to a growing environmentally responsible public. Please do the right thing and start a national campaign to save Lolita. If you lead the charge, it will be the best thing you could do for your reputation and for your economic
prosperity. You couldn't pay for this type of positive press!!!

Sincerely, Jo Anne Johnson - Maui County Councilmember