Will Lolita—Miami Seaquarium’s Lonely Orca—Star in Blackfish “Sequel”?Posted by Jenni James, ALDF Litigation Fellow on June 10, 2014
The Miami Seaquarium is in the business of breaking laws. For decades, the Miami Seaquarium has confined Lolita, a wild born orca, in conditions that violate the Animal Welfare Act (AWA). Lolita is kept in an undersized concrete aquarium prison and denied shade and the companionship of other orcas. Because of this, ALDF and PETA sued the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for renewing the Miami Seaquarium’s license.
The Miami Seaquarium has also been violating the federal Occupational Safety and Health Act—the law that protects employees from deadly workplace hazards, such as swimming with wild orcas. Miami Seaquarium has been requiring trainers to swim with and even ride upon Lolita as she performs tricks in her tiny tank, despite the law. ALDF included exclusive video evidence of this ongoing occupational hazard in a complaint sent to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”). This complaint renews the request ALDF made first in November 2013, asking OSHA to investigate this blatant violation of the OSH Act.
To see the violation in question, click here (12:25 in the video).
The Miami Seaquarium has no excuse for its lawless behavior. The 2010 death of SeaWorld orca trainer Dawn Brancheau (made notorious by the award-winning documentary Blackfish), sparked a prolonged legal battle over employee safety. This battle ended in April 2014, when SeaWorld lost its appeal before a panel of judges from the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals in SeaWorld of Florida v. Perez. The panel affirmed the decision below, which held that close contact with captive orcas is a recognized hazard, prohibited by the Occupational Safety and Health Act. Despite this clear ruling, as depicted in ALDF’s video footage of Lolita’s May 10, 2014 performance, the Miami Seaquarium continues to ask its employees to put their lives on the line, all in the name of entertainment and profit. By doing so, they are inviting another tragic disaster like the one featured in Blackfish.
The legal issue is settled. The Miami Seaquarium is not immune from the Circuit Court’s decision. OSHA now has the opportunity to prevent another tragedy. In the process, Lolita will no longer be treated like a living surfboard. If you think an investigation is overdue, you can take action here.