Miami Seaquarium outside.

BREAKING: Miami Seaquarium’s Lease Terminated, Has Weeks to Vacate



After numerous reports of animal welfare violations and the resignation of the only attending veterinarian, the Miami-Dade county has notified Miami Seaquarium that it needs to vacate.

Miami-Dade County has terminated Miami Seaquarium’s lease on Thursday, March 7, 2024, according to reports, after multiple inspections by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) found repeated animal welfare violations.

Miami Seaquarium, which leases its campus from the county and is owned by The Dolphin Company, must surrender its waterfront property by April 21, 2024. According to a letter from Jimmy Morales, Chief Operating Officer under Miami-Dade Mayor Levine Cava:

“Lessee’s long and troubling history of violations constitute repeated, continuing longstanding violations of Lessee’s contractual obligations to keep the property in a good state of repair, maintain animals in accordance with applicable law, and comply with all laws.”

The letter goes on to state that Miami Seaquarium has been cited by the USDA seven times for failing to maintain facilities, seven times related to inadequate veterinary care, two times for inadequate handling of animals, 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.

If Miami Seaquarium fails to comply, it could lead to a legal battle over eviction. As of this writing, the Miami-Dade Mayor’s office has yet to decide the fate of the animals forced to live at the venue.

Nicole Barrantes, World Animal Protection US’s Wildlife Campaign Manager, said in a statement:

“World Animal Protection applauds Mayor Daniella Levine Cava and her decision to terminate Miami Seaquarium’s lease, ending nearly 70 years of abhorrent animal cruelty at the venue. This momentous step forward is thanks to the countless advocates who have signed petitions, sent letters, and protested outside the Seaquarium for more than a decade. World Animal Protection is in communication with Miami-Dade County to continue ensuring they are prioritizing the safety and wellbeing of Miami Seaquarium’s captive animals. We hope that other jurisdictions with dolphinariums follow suit and help end this cruel industry forever.”

On January 22, 2024, a letter from the Miami-Dade County Mayor, Daniella Levine Cava, was sent to the Miami Seaquarium regarding her intentions to terminate the lease of the Virginia Keys venue. Mayor Levine Cava has cited the USDA’s concerns over the mistreatment of animals and repeated violations of animal welfare by the Dolphin Company (Miami Seaquarium’s parent company) as her reasoning:

“Despite these infractions, the Lessee has failed to promptly rectify these matters, culminating in the issuance of a Notice of Intent to Confiscate four animals by the USDA. I’ve been informed that this confiscation is the first time in 30 years that the USDA has taken such a measure with marine mammals.”

Miami-Dade Commissioner for District 7, Raquel Regalado, whose district includes Virginia Keys, issued a joint statement with Mayor Levine Cava on Monday, stating the following:

“Our priority is not keeping the Seaquarium open, our priority is ensuring that the animals are safe.”

Just last week, Miami’s Seaquarium’s head veterinarian—the only attending veterinarian (AV) on staff—resigned just weeks after losing a certification required in its lease due to repeated violations. A recent USDA inspection report obtained by World Animal Protection US found that Jessica R. Comolli, the former veterinarian, was the only one AV employed to care for 46 marine mammals, 50 birds, hundreds of fishes, sharks, and rays.

A string of USDA reports stated that the AV had serious concerns about dolphins suffering from ulcers and foreign body ingestion—notably nails and broken bolts. The inspector also noted that routine physical exams had to be postponed since March of 2023 due to a lack of veterinary technicians, appropriate facilities, and equipment, “affecting the AV’s (attending veterinarian) ability to provide proper care” for animals held captive at the venue.

Head veterinarian Jessica R. Comolli’s resignation comes after a number of deaths at Miami Seaquarium, including Sushi, a female sea lion. Sushi was euthanized on January 16, 2024, a close source familiar with the venue told World Animal Protection. Sushi needed corrective eye surgery, but no surgeries could be done because the anesthesiologist and the surgeon had not been paid.

Since 2019, World Animal Protection US has been protesting Miami Seaquarium’s use of wild animals for entertainment as just one example of how an entire exploitative industry harms animals for profit, and now we need your help. No wild animals belong in captivity but together, we can end this cruel industry.

Donate NOW so we can ensure the animals at Miami Seaquarium are freed from the cruel venue’s care.

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