Captive Orca Gets Day in Court

On January 23, in Utrecht, the Netherlands, an appeals court heard the arguments of the Free Morgan Foundation (FMF) for revoking the certificate (permit) that allowed the orca known as Morgan to be transferred from a Dutch aquarium to a zoo in Spain in 2011. Dolfinarium Harderwijk rescued Morgan in 2010, a juvenile whale emaciated and alone in the Wadden Sea, declared her unreleasable, and then sent her, with the Dutch government’s permission, to Loro Parque in the Canary Islands.

The young whale fell through a number of cracks in the EU regulatory system—the first was keeping her captive (the Dutch government was lax in its oversight of the assessment of her releasability). The next was the Spanish government allowing her to be commercially exploited after the Dutch government had authorized her transfer only for research. And the last was when Loro Parque announced late last year that Morgan was pregnant; the Dutch had not authorized her use for breeding, yet the Spanish government allowed it.

The three judges were clearly engaged and asked excellent questions of all parties to the legal action. It is our hope that they will conclude that the Netherlands still has the authority and jurisdiction to determine Morgan’s fate. Ideally, she would then be brought back to Scandinavia and a seaside sanctuary. At the very least, Loro Parque should be prevented from continuing to breed her or use her for commercial entertainment shows.