Miami Seaquarium in Hot Water for Endangering Orca Trainers

Posted on November 7, 2013

Captivity Industry on Trial as ALDF Urges Protective Barriers for All U.S. Marine Theme Parks

For immediate release:

Lisa Franzetta, Animal Legal Defense Fund
Megan Backus, Animal Legal Defense Fund


Southern resident orca. (CC Miles Ritter)

MIAMI—Today, the national nonprofit Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) sent a formal letter to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), seeking enforcement of safety standards to protect workers from captive orcas at the Miami Seaquarium. OSHA currently relies upon the “general duty clause” of the 1970 Occupational Safety and Health Act (“the Act”) to protect orca trainers from injury and death, and ALDF’s letter argues that this clause should apply to every orca exhibitor in the marine display industry, from SeaWorld to the Miami Seaquarium. Today’s letter also requests greater investigation of industry safety violations as well as full enforcement of the Act’s general duty clause which OSHA interprets to require distance between employees and captive orcas on workplace premises during performances.

The Miami Seaquarium is the only U.S. marine theme park not in full compliance with the federal agency’s interpretation that prohibits trainers from entering the water with a captive orca. The facility also houses a 43 year-old orca named Lolita in the smallest orca tank in North America. ALDF, along with PETA, has filed a lawsuit against the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) for excluding Lolita from Endangered Species Act (ESA) protections, and a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for licensing the Seaquarium despite myriad violations of the Animal Welfare Act (AWA).

According to today’s letter, ALDF argues that by ignoring federal safety regulations the Miami Seaquarium is not only harming Lolita but also the safety of her trainers. Enforcement of the Act may have prevented the death of SeaWorld trainer Dawn Brancheau. In 2010, Dawn was killed in front of a crowd of spectators when a 12,000 pound orca named Tilikum dragged her under water—as discussed in the popular documentary Blackfish, which aired on CNN in October. As a result of Brancheau’s death, OSHA cited SeaWorld of Florida for violating the Act.

“We don’t need further tragedy to prove what has already been demonstrated so clearly,” said Stephen Wells, executive director of the Animal Legal Defense Fund. “Orcas don’t belong in captivity, and people don’t belong in the water with them. Meanwhile, the Miami Seaquarium continues to act like worker safety and animal welfare laws don’t apply when profit is concerned”

Copies of ALDF’s letter to OSHA are available upon request.

24 thoughts on “Miami Seaquarium in Hot Water for Endangering Orca Trainers

  1. Lauren DeGenaro says:

    Having just watched the documentary blackfish on cnn, I am outright appalled at the exploitation of such magnificent, intelligent, and emotional animals for human profit. As a life long animal lover, I was enthralled with sea world and their killer whales as a child, but I will never support such an organization again. Shame on sea world and similar organizations for portraying their causes as sympathetic to the natural needs of marine mammals. These animals need to be released if possible or at least put in sea sanctuaries away from audiences if release isn’t possible. I feel incredibly sad after watching blackfish and am looking to get involved in this cause where I can. Please do not support or buy sea world products or tickets-the purchase of their products supports these creatures being kept in captivity!

  2. jennifer atack says:

    This is a disgrace to humanity. Empty the tanks and let them live free where they belong.

  3. Sommerfeld says:

    cruel !!!

  4. Jacquelin Cran says:

    these beautiful mammals need space please set them free

  5. Velma Kelly says:

    Orcas don’t belong in captivity, free Lolita

  6. Debra Zavala says:

    It is not correct for Federal agencies , state agencies or the law to turn a blind eye when Miami Seaquarium and other sea parks are in clear violation of the law. The Orca housed there is living in a pool that is not regulation size and nobody has done anything to remedy that. It is time to change, meet regulations and better yet Free the orca back to her home water where people are waiting for her with a sea pen to rehabilitate her for release. Also the Orca should be protected and is not the property of Miami seaquarium but the property of the Pacific ocean.

  7. micky says:

    instead of wild animals they should use people , divers , swimmers , water clowns , and the kids would have good time to …it will give some jobs to some people

  8. Emily Simon says:

    This is disgusting!!!! Let these wild animals free!!

  9. Janelle kinney says:

    Please free your orcas and protect your trainers.

  10. Gina C says:

    Go after them and set Lolita Free…her ocean home and family await her return…

  11. Jennifer Pinto says:

    Thank you ALDF for all you are doing to help Lolita! MSQ continues to somehow remain exempt from clearly defined laws and its time for the agencies responsible for maintaining MINIMAL animal welfare standards to actually do the job they were placed in the office to do. Enforce the AWA, give Lolita the ESA protections she deserves and send her home to the Pacific Northwest!!

  12. Gayle says:

    Please let Lolita be Free. The tank she is in is way too small. How can human beings be so cruel to a living being.

    1. Monica Wells says:

      Remember slavery?
      Do you see how much animal abuse is inflicted on dogs, cats and other wildlife? Humans are evil beings.

  13. Craig Hargrove says:

    Cetaceans are not circus performers. Empty the tanks!

  14. Simone says:

    I was so shocked and appalled at the story of Lolita on SBS TV in South Australia.I wish I could do something to free her. Given her captivity is illegal, surely the legal animal rights organisations in US have the power to free her from Miami Seaquarium.
    The people who own and work at this place must be psychopaths for their cruelty toward this magnificent animal. Forty-two years in captivity?
    My heart aches for her and all the other creatures in the animal kingdom abused and tortured by humans.

  15. Sharon says:

    Thank you ALDF for fighting on behalf of Lolita. Miami seaquarium can NOT continue to get away with these things.

  16. Charlene Inglis says:

    Have you no decency? Shame Shame Shame on you!

  17. Sonnta Simon says:

    Empty all the tanks! Stop torturing these magnificent creatures!

  18. GRACE NEFF says:

    Animals were not put on this planet to be exploited and used for entertainment. They were put here to keep the planet in balance so leave them in the Ocean.

  19. Al says:

    When will this stop ? What is wrong with humans ? Have you no decency or humanity ? These are living beings. The size of their tank is like a prison cell for them. Free them immediately !

  20. Rebeca Steinberg says:

    Animals of any kind, are ours for entertainment. May every living creature be free.

  21. Free these creatures NOW!!

  22. Barbie White says:

    My hope is for Lolita to be freed and to accompany her should be Corky together. If we can win one of these cases maybe the other will comply as well. To put these 2 sweet and gentle survivors back into their ocean together, we all know, they would become a unit and then swim off to their freedom as family. Come on Sea World and Art Hertz time for you to give something back for your riches and harm you caused.

  23. Tomyra says:

    All it takes is one trip to Miami Seaquarium to realize that Lolita’s tank is WAY TOO SMALL!

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