Miami-Dade Aims to Terminate Lease with Miami Seaquarium Due to Disturbing Violations

Miami Seaquarium at Key Biscayne MIAMI, UNITED STATES FEBRUARY 20, 2022

The USDA report dated November 28th revealed numerous instances of repeated animal welfare violations

The decision by the county also comes just five months after the death of the Seaquarium’s iconic orca, Lolita the Killer Whale. In an unprecedented decision reflective of contemporary concerns, officials from Miami-Dade County are taking steps to effectively close the problematic Miami Seaquarium. The marine park located on Key Biscayne has been beset by a series of setbacks and substantial lapses in its animal care practices. This month, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, responsible for overseeing animal exhibits at theme parks, issued a comprehensive report highlighting urgent deficiencies across various attractions. The USDA review identified disrepair in two dolphin pools, several ill marine mammals, issues within the sea lion pen, problems concerning the penguin facility and enclosure, and noted the presence of “multiple indoor and outdoor metal enclosures that showed evidence of excessive rust” in an aviary. Furthermore, the Seaquarium was criticized in the report for a deficiency in “trained” personnel. The report asserted, “Considering the multitude of non-compliant items outlined in this report, this facility is inadequately staffed with personnel possessing the necessary training to uphold the professionally acceptable standard of husbandry and handling practices for the animals within their collection.”

Lolita the Killer Whale’s death devastated the legions of those who advocated for her. But activist Alejandro Ariel Dintino, who had long campaigned for her release, said he finds solace in the county’s decision.

“It was time to close this facility,” he said. “I still get very sad thinking of what happened to Lolita. But at least the other animals there will now, I hope, have a better life.”

Established in 1955, the Seaquarium emerged as the then-largest marine park globally, epitomizing the quintessential American roadside attraction. Captivating both tourists and locals alike, it offered mesmerizing, up-close encounters with wildlife, bringing to life creatures previously encountered only in tales of swashbuckling pirates and undersea exploration found in books.


In 1970, the park entered a new era by introducing Lolita, a captivating addition during a time when orca attractions were the hottest trend in the marine theme park industry. The strategic move to bring Lolita alongside the male orca, Hugo, positioned the Seaquarium as a formidable competitor. This decision proved timely as the Walt Disney Company was on the cusp of unveiling the Magic Kingdom, marking the onset of Central Florida’s entertainment dominance.

A poignant image captures Lolita pushing her trainer skyward at the Miami Seaquarium, a snapshot of the park’s dynamic history and its role in the evolving landscape of marine theme park attractions.

Although privately owned, the park functions on land leased from Miami-Dade County, granting local officials authority over its operational status.

According to a statement attributed to Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava and Commissioner Raquel Regalado, whose district encompasses the park, the reported violations constitute a violation of the terms and conditions stipulated in the lease agreement. The county is purportedly in the process of scrutinizing all requisite measures to initiate the termination of the Amended and Restated Lease Agreement.

How Seaquariums Contribute to Animal Deaths in Captivity

Seaquariums, designed to entertain and educate the public about marine life, have faced criticism for their potential contribution to animal deaths in captivity. One significant factor is the limited space and confinement within seaquariums, restricting the natural movements and behaviors of marine animals. This inadequacy can lead to stress, aggression, and physical ailments, particularly affecting large and highly mobile species like whales and dolphins. Additionally, the artificial environments created within seaquariums may not accurately replicate the natural habitats of marine animals, causing stress, disorientation, and various health issues.

The disruption of social structures is another concern, as many marine species are highly social and thrive on interactions with their own kind. Separation from social groups in seaquariums can result in loneliness, depression, and behavioral problems, all of which can impact the overall health and lifespan of the animals. The performances and training sessions commonly featured in seaquariums, while entertaining for visitors, may involve stressful conditions for the animals, potentially leading to physical injuries or psychological distress. In terms of medical care, captive marine animals may face health issues due to the stress of confinement, dietary changes, and exposure to unnatural conditions. Breeding challenges, such as genetic issues and difficulties in providing proper maternal care, also contribute to higher mortality rates among newborns or complications during the reproductive process. The long-term effects of captivity, including the lack of mental and physical stimulation in comparison to their natural ocean environments, can compromise the immune systems and overall resilience of marine animals, making them more susceptible to diseases and infections.

In essence, despite their educational and entertainment objectives, seaquariums pose ethical concerns surrounding captivity that activists and conservationists often advocate against, promoting alternatives that prioritize the well-being of marine life and support conservation efforts without the associated risks and ethical dilemmas.

The Ongoing Battle

Activists’ Campaigns to Shut Down Seaquariums

Seaquariums, once celebrated as places of entertainment and education, have become the focal point of intense activism. Advocates for animal rights and conservation have spearheaded campaigns to shut down seaquariums around the world, citing concerns about animal welfare, captivity, and the ethical implications of keeping marine life for public display. In this article, we delve into the motivations and strategies of activists in their endeavors to shutter seaquariums, exploring the multifaceted reasons behind the movement.

The Evolution of Seaquariums:

Seaquariums emerged in the mid-20th century as popular attractions that combined entertainment with educational opportunities. Designed to showcase marine life and create awareness about the ocean’s wonders, these facilities have faced increasing scrutiny in recent years. Activists argue that the captivity of marine animals, including dolphins, whales, and seals, raises ethical questions about their well-being and the impact of confinement on their physical and mental health.

Animal Welfare Concerns:

One of the primary motivations driving activists is the concern for marine animals’ welfare in seaquariums. Critics argue that artificial environments and limited space in captivity can lead to stress, aggression, and health issues among marine life. Documentaries and undercover investigations have exposed instances of animals displaying signs of distress, such as abnormal behaviors and deteriorating physical conditions, further fueling the push for seaquarium closures.

Ethical Considerations:

Activists also emphasize the ethical implications of keeping intelligent and social marine species in captivity for human entertainment. Dolphins, for instance, are known for their high level of intelligence and complex social structures. Activists argue that confining such creatures for public display compromises their natural behaviors and social interactions, raising ethical questions about the morality of using these animals for entertainment purposes.

Educational Alternatives:

Advocates for seaquarium closures often propose alternative forms of education and awareness that do not involve the captivity of marine animals. They argue that advancements in technology, such as virtual reality and high-quality documentaries, provide immersive experiences that can educate the public about marine life without subjecting animals to a life in captivity. These alternatives, activists assert, offer a more ethical and sustainable approach to promoting ocean conservation.

Legal and Regulatory Challenges:

Activists frequently engage in legal battles and lobby for stricter regulations governing seaquariums. They argue that existing regulations may not adequately address the complexities of marine animal welfare in captivity. Recent cases of regulatory violations and damning reports from oversight agencies have bolstered activists’ calls for legal reforms to ensure the well-being of animals in seaquariums.

Public Awareness and Celebrity Endorsement:

To garner support for their cause, activists leverage the power of public awareness campaigns and celebrity endorsements. High-profile individuals, including actors, musicians, and environmentalists, often join the movement, using their platforms to amplify the message against seaquariums. Social media plays a crucial role in mobilizing public opinion, enabling activists to share information, organize protests, and build a global network of supporters.

The activism against seaquariums reflects a growing global consciousness about the ethical treatment of animals and the impact of human activities on the natural world. As the movement gains momentum, seaquariums face increasing pressure to reassess their practices and prioritize the well-being of the marine life under their care. The debate over the existence of seaquariums continues to evolve, highlighting the complex intersection of entertainment, education, and ethics in our relationship with marine animals.

Advocating Against Animal Abuse:

Miami Seaquarium Protest

A Comprehensive Approach Including the Closure of Seaquariums

Animal abuse, particularly in the context of captivity such as in seaquariums, has spurred a global movement advocating for the ethical treatment of animals. This comprehensive advocacy involves not only raising awareness but also actively pursuing the closure of facilities like seaquariums where marine animals are kept in captivity. In this discourse, we will delve into the multifaceted approach one can take to champion the cause against animal abuse, emphasizing the closure of seaquariums as a pivotal aspect of this endeavor.

Understanding the Issues:

Miami Seaquarium Before delving into advocacy strategies, it is crucial to comprehend the issues surrounding animal abuse in seaquariums. These facilities, while initially designed for entertainment and education, have come under scrutiny for their impact on marine life. From the confinement of intelligent and social creatures to the stress of performances and inadequate living conditions, seaquariums raise ethical concerns that prompt passionate individuals to take action.

Education and Awareness Campaigns: Advocacy against animal abuse begins with education and awareness campaigns. Utilizing various platforms such as social media, documentaries, and educational programs, individuals can inform the public about the realities of captivity, the impact on animal welfare, and the ethical concerns associated with seaquariums. By fostering understanding, advocates can garner support and encourage a shift in public perception.

Legislation and Legal Advocacy: Engaging in legal avenues is a powerful strategy to combat animal abuse. Advocates can work towards strengthening existing animal welfare laws and regulations, or lobby for the creation of new ones that specifically address the complexities of marine animal captivity. By holding seaquariums accountable to stringent standards, legal advocacy seeks to enforce ethical treatment and better living conditions for the animals.

Boycotts and Economic Pressure: Economic pressure can be a potent tool in advocating against animal abuse. By organizing and promoting boycotts of seaquariums, activists can hit these facilities where it hurts the most—their financial bottom line. Public awareness campaigns that encourage individuals to refrain from visiting seaquariums can contribute to a decline in ticket sales, pressuring the facilities to reassess their practices or, in extreme cases, leading to closures.

Political Engagement and Grassroots Movements: Engaging with political figures and participating in grassroots movements can amplify the voice of advocates. By forming alliances with like-minded organizations and individuals, activists can lobby for political support, garnering attention from policymakers and initiating discussions about the ethical implications of keeping marine animals in captivity. Grassroots movements provide a platform for collective action and solidarity, fostering a sense of community among advocates.

Promotion of Alternative Conservation Methods: Advocates can champion alternative conservation methods that do not involve the captivity of marine animals. Emphasizing sustainable and ethical approaches to marine life conservation, such as marine sanctuaries, protected habitats, and research programs, provides viable alternatives to seaquariums. By showcasing successful examples of these alternatives, advocates can illustrate that education and conservation can thrive without compromising animal welfare.

Scientific Research and Expert Testimony: Supporting and promoting scientific research on the impact of captivity on marine animals is essential. Advocates can collaborate with marine biologists, animal behaviorists, and veterinarians to gather data and expert testimony that highlights the physical and psychological toll of captivity. Scientific evidence can be a powerful tool in influencing public opinion, swaying policymakers, and challenging the legitimacy of seaquarium practices.

Media Exposure and Celebrity Endorsements: Leveraging media exposure and securing endorsements from influential figures can significantly bolster advocacy efforts. Documentaries, investigative journalism, and high-profile endorsements from celebrities can bring attention to the issues surrounding animal abuse in seaquariums. Public figures using their platforms to condemn such practices contribute to the broader conversation and encourage public discourse.

Engagement with Seaquariums and Dialogue: Advocates can initiate direct dialogue with seaquariums, encouraging open communication about their practices and animal welfare standards. Constructive engagement may involve proposing improvements, encouraging transparency, and facilitating a transition towards more ethical and sustainable practices. While closure may be the ultimate goal, initiating dialogue can provide an opportunity for seaquariums to reconsider their methods.

Advocating against animal abuse, especially in the context of seaquariums, demands a comprehensive and persistent approach. Through education, legal action, economic pressure, political engagement, and promotion of alternatives, individuals can contribute to a movement that seeks not only to raise awareness but also to actively pursue the closure of facilities that compromise the well-being of marine animals. By combining these strategies, advocates can work towards a future where marine life is respected, protected, and allowed to thrive in their natural environments.