County terminates lease with Miami Seaquarium after safety of animals questioned

The Miami Seaquarium’s lease has been terminated and its owner ordered to move out next month following a series of federal inspection reports that found the facility in disrepair and the safety of its animals jeopardized.

The Office of Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava sent a “Notice of Termination” lease letter on Thursday to Eduardo Albor, the CEO of the aquarium’s operator, The Dolphin Company.

The owner must vacate the property by April 21, the letter said.

The letter cited numerous instances in which the Seaquarium’s ownership failed to properly upkeep its facilities, had staffing problems and placed animals in harm’s way, which were documented in multiple reports from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

“For example, between July 6, 2022, and January 9, 2024, Lessee has been cited by the USDA seven times for failing to adequately maintain facilities, seven times related to inadequate veterinary care, two times for inadequate handling of animals (in one instance resulting in a patron being bitten during a dolphin encounter), three times for failure to maintain outdoor facilities, three times for failing to have adequate staff, two times for failure to maintain indoor facilities, and three times for inadequate water quality,” according to the letter.

No one with the Dolphin Company could be immediately reached for comment Thursday afternoon. Representatives with the Seaquarium were also not reached.

NBC South Florida reported there’s been a years-long battle by animal activists to close the facility.

Demonstrators hold up signs after the death of captive orca Lolita (Wilfredo Lee / AP file)
Demonstrators hold up signs after the death of captive orca Lolita (Wilfredo Lee / AP file)

One report in January by the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service found troubling conditions at the Seaquarium during an inspection on Oct. 16.

The report noted that a dolphin named “Ripley” was found with a two-inch nail, mangrove pods, and small pieces of shell in his throat, NBC South Florida reported.

Another dolphin, “Bimini,” was found with a broken bolt in her mouth.

Weeks before the inspection, it had been discovered that an adult female California sea lion named “Sushi” had been holding her right eye closed and rubbing both eyes due to needing cataract surgery, the report said.

The sea lion started refusing food due to eye pain and at the time of the inspection the cataract surgery had still not been scheduled, the report said, according to NBC South Florida.

Last month, two PETA protests were held in Miami calling for the Seaquarium’s lease to be terminated, the news outlet reported.

The Seaquarium also garnered headlines in 2023 when an orca named Lolita, that was captured in 1970, died in captivity from a health ailment.

Last month, the Seaquarium’s head veterinarian resigned, NBC South Florida reported.

PETA’s Executive Vice President Tracy Reiman said in a Thursday statement: “After more than 50 years of miserable animals and false promises to clean up its act, the Seaquarium’s impending shutdown is overdue, and PETA looks to Miami-Dade County authorities to keep up the good work by ensuring that these animals are sent to reputable facilities where they’ll get the care they so desperately need.”

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