Supporters have offered $1 million for her release. Annual demonstrations have demanded her return to the Northwest.
Over the years, celebrities, schoolchildren and even a Washington state governor have campaigned to free Lolita, a killer whale captured from Puget Sound in 1970 and who has performed at Miami Seaquarium for the past four decades.
Activists are now suing the federal government in Seattle, saying it should have protected Lolita when it listed other Southern Resident orcas as an endangered species in 2005.
The lawsuit filed in November alleges that the fisheries service allows the Miami Seaquarium to keep Lolita in conditions that harm and harass her and otherwise wouldn't be allowed under the Endangered Species Act. Seaquarium declined to comment on the lawsuit, but said Lolita is well cared for.