Updated Mar 7, 2024 - News

Miami Seaquarium told to vacate amid animal care controversies

Three trainers and dolphins doing tricks at the Seaquarium.

One of four shows at Miami Seaquarium in 2019 involved an orca and Pacific white-sided dolphins. Photo: Richard Tribou/Orlando Sentinel/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

The Miami Seaquarium was given notice by the county that it has until April 21 to vacate its government-owned site or face possible eviction.

  • Dolphin Company, the parent company of the Seaquarium, has until Monday to respond, Miami-Dade Mayor Levine Cava said at a news conference Thursday afternoon.

Why it matters: The decades-old marine park has faced months of controversy over unpaid rent, alleged lease violations and poor conditions for the animals.

What's inside: In the notice, Levine Cava's office cited the Seaquarium's "long and troubling history of violations" and the "repeated, continuous and longstanding violations of [its] contractual obligations" as justification for terminating the lease.

The other side: The Seaquarium did not immediately respond to Axios' request for comment.

Flashback: The Seaquarium opened in the mid-1950s as one of the country's first theme parks centered on marine mammals, according to the Miami Herald.

Catch up quick: Animal rights groups like PETA have protested the park for years, including gathering in front of Levine Cava's office last month to demand its closure.

  • The killer whale Lolita died of kidney failure and old age in August, and in December, a pair of manatees were relocated to ZooTampa after activists recorded one in a cramped tank.
  • The mayor's office notified the Seaquarium in December that it planned to terminate the lease, then warned it again in January, following a series of negative federal inspector's reports about animal care.
  • The Dolphin Company pushed back, saying it was addressing the issues cited by federal inspectors.
  • The park's chief veterinarian resigned last month, the Miami Herald reported.

What they're saying: "Finally, this prison for aquatic animals will close," said Phil Demers, an animal rights activist who was sued for trespassing and defamation by the Seaquarium, according to the Daily Beast.

  • In a news release from the Animal Activist Legal Defense Project, Demers said the termination comes "too late for Lolita and many other animals who have suffered," but going forward, "no animal will end up serving a life sentence at this awful place."
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