Controversial Florida Theme Park Refuses to Close, Fights Eviction

in Theme Parks

Tokitae killer whale and trainer at Miami Seaquarium

Credit: Isabelle Puaut

It may have been evicted by the county, but one Florida theme park has no plans to budge any time soon.

After years of controversy around the lack of appropriate care for its animal residents, marine theme park Miami Seaquarium received its eviction notice from Miami-Dade County last week. Under the terms of this notice, the park is required to vacate the premises in April.

At least, in theory.

Trainer on orca at Miami Seaquarium
Credit: Isabelle Puaut via Flickr

Miami Seaquarium – which is owned and operated by The Dolphin Company – has responded to its eviction notice with a nine-page letter in which it demanded the decision to be rescinded. It argued that the county has overlooked the park’s efforts to correct the violations cited in the notice, insisting that it is improving both its animal care and facilities.

The Dolphin Company added that its lease agreement stretches to 2044 and remains “valid and binding,” and also claimed that attempts to evict the park bypass the legal authority of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Florida Wildlife Commission, and the county’s Board of Commissioners.

Sea lion jumps through hoop
Credit: Kenneth Cole Schneider via Flickr

Related: Is SeaWorld Getting Rid of Its Killer Whales?

Over the years, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has released several damning reports about Miami Seaquarium. Some of the most incriminating details include animals living in bacteria-ridden water, dolphins with nails and broken bolts in their throats and mouths, and a lack of essential veterinary equipment to care for its residents. According to the Dolphin Project, at least 120 dolphins and whales have died at the park.

In a statement shared with Inside the Magic, the park said: “Miami Seaquarium respectfully requests that Miami-Dade County reconsider its decision to terminate the lease. The Seaquarium is committed to constructive dialogue and collaboration to address any outstanding concerns. The shared goal is the welfare of marine life, the Seaquarium’s team, and the continued enjoyment and education of its visitors.”

Man riding dolphins at Miami Seaquarium
Credit: Miami Seaquarium

Related: Trainers Accuse Theme Park of Killing Orca, Updates Given

It also added that “since its establishment in 1955, Miami Seaquarium has been an integral part of the Miami-Dade community, contributing to both local education and the economy. The potential eviction poses a threat not only to the dedicated employees of the Seaquarium but also to a valuable educational resource for the community and the broader South Florida tourism industry.”

Miami Seaquarium was most famously home to Lolita (AKA Tokitae), who was the second-oldest killer whale in captivity at the time of her death in August 2023. In March of the same year, the park vowed to free Tokitae into her natal waters in the Pacific Northwest – a move that proved controversial to her former trainers, many of whom insisted that she was both too old and too frail to survive the transition.

Have you ever been to Miami Seaquarium? Let us know in the comments!

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