Eviction Notice Served to Miami Seaquarium Amidst Controversy Over Animal Welfare

Eviction Notice Served to Miami Seaquarium Amidst Controversy Over Animal Welfare

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Authorities have served eviction papers to The Dolphin Company, owners of the iconic Miami Seaquarium, citing repeated failures to meet contractual obligations related to the care of marine residents. The move comes after damning reports surfaced, exposing the inadequate conditions and numerous animal deaths within the park.

Lolita performs
Lolita performing (Averette at English Wikipedia/ CC BY 3.0)

Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava addressed the issue in a statement posted on social media platform X, revealing that The Dolphin Company had consistently fallen short in maintaining the premises and ensuring the safety and well-being of the animals under their care. She emphasized that the current state of the Miami Seaquarium is deemed unsustainable and unsafe.

Established in 1955, the Miami Seaquarium has faced longstanding criticism regarding its treatment of marine life. Notably, the death of the first orca, Hugo, drew attention when he succumbed to a brain aneurysm after repeated head impacts on the tank walls. According to the Dolphin Project, the park has witnessed the deaths of at least 120 whales and dolphins over its 68-year history.

Particular focus has been on the prolonged captivity of orca Lolita, also known as Tokitae or Toki, who spent 53 years in confinement. Despite plans for her release, Lolita died from a suspected renal condition just before the scheduled return to the wild. A documentary highlighting Lolita's story is set to premiere next month at the Miami Film Festival.

Inadequate animal care

Federal authorities, including the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, have also expressed concerns. A report from last year revealed inadequate animal care, citing incidents such as a dolphin with a nail in its throat and a sea lion refusing to eat due to delayed surgery.

Animal welfare organizations have welcomed the eviction news, with Dr. Naomi Rose, senior scientist in marine mammal biology for the Animal Welfare Institute's Marine Life Program, stating, "At long last, authorities are taking action against the persistent animal welfare violations at Miami Seaquarium."

Miami-Dade County Mayor Levine Cava emphasized the priority of ensuring the safety and well-being of the animals, expressing hope for a safer, healthier future. However, the Seaquarium has the option to contest the eviction, requiring a judge to declare the park in compliance with its lease.

The Dolphin Company, based in Mexico, had initially pledged to move Lolita to a natural sea pen in the Pacific Northwest after acquiring the Seaquarium in 2022. Lolita's death in August 2023 further fuelled the calls for improved conditions and the relocation of captive marine life.

The Seaquarium, which opened in 1955 and gained international attention in the 1960s with the filming of the television series "Flipper," is now at the centre of a legal and ethical battle as it faces potential eviction amidst growing concerns for the welfare of its marine residents.

Mayor Daniella Levine Cava