An Alarming History
Miami Seaquarium reports the cause of death for their marine mammals to National Marine Fisheries Service as required by federal law. To date, at least 117 dolphins and whales have died under the facility’s care.
Causes of Dolphin Deaths
- died during transfer
- drowned (tangled in cables)
- brain aneurysm- after an orca named Hugo repeatedly bashed his head into the
- tank walls
- digestive tract blocked by foreign object
- skin cancer- likely due to lack of shade
- shock of transport between tanks
- killed by another animal
- parasitic infection
- sepsis from a collision
- drowning due to entrapment in pool fencing
In 2021, an APHIS Inspection Report stated that:
- The Training Curator dropped Lolita/Tokitae’s fish diet by 30 pounds (160 to 130), ignoring the Attending Veterinarian’s (AV) objection
- The AV was concerned Lolita/Tokitae was not getting enough water and that the Training Curator added fast swims and large jumps into training suggestions despite her abnormal bloodwork. This resulted in over-exertion and an injury to her lower jaw.
- Injuries to her lower mandible were indicated in her medical records Feb. 25th, Mar 10th, Mar 31st, and Apr 6th and 7th of 2021
- More on the report can be read here.
In December 2021, in response to the recent APHIS Inspection Report, a federal probe was launched, delaying the facility’s lease change to The Dolphin Company.
Throughout 2019 and 2020, the facility had multiple deaths listed as trauma related:
- A bottlenose dolphin named Echo died of “cervical (neck) trauma” believe to be from a tank mate.
- Another bottlenose dolphin named Indigo was also believed to have been killed in an altercation with a tank mate overnight since, according to staff, there had been “a change in social structure.”
- Abaco, a third bottlenose dolphin, died after becoming trapped in between the fenceline of two pools.
- A female sea lion died due to injuries “consistent with acute cervical/head trauma.”
In 2017, during Hurricane Irma, Miami Seaquarium staff completely abandoned the facility altogether, leaving the animals to fend for themselves. One dolphin died when Irma made landfall, another died four days after the hurricane hit.
In 2015, Lolita (Tokitae) was formally recognized as an endangered animal. The wild captures conducted for dolphinariums have contributed to the endangered status of the wild population she was taken from- the southern resident orcas.
In 2014, the aquarium was fined $7,000 for allowing trainers to work with orcas without sufficient protections. They reportedly worked with Lolita (Tokitae) without a physical barrier.
In 2003, Miami Seaquarium had to fix dozens of violations noted by building and fire officials who threatened to shut down the facility.
In 1980, captive orca Hugo died of a brain aneurysm after repeatedly smashing his head into his tank walls. His death also marked the last time Lolita (Tokitae) saw another orca.
In 1970, Lolita (Tokitae) arrived at Miami Seaquarium after being violently captured from Penn Cove, in Washington State.
How You Can Help
Please contact each agency below and strongly request that action be taken to ensure public safety at the Miami Seaquarium. Ask why Dade County Building and Zoning and Fire Marshal are allowing the Seaquarium to “slide by,” endangering the lives of paying customers.
State Fire Marshal
200 E. Gaines Street
Tallahassee, FL 32399-0342
Ph. (850) 413-3089
email: [email protected]
Office of the Attorney General
State of Florida
PL-01 The Capitol
Tallahassee, FL 32399-1050
Phone: (850) 414-3300
Write to the agencies below and ask why they continually allow Miami Seaquarium to operate when it is sub-standard to their own laws, and request that captive marine mammals at the facility be retired.
Miami-Dade Council and Mayor's Office
USDA, APHIS Animal Care
Write to APHIS (The Animal & Plant Inspection Service) and the USDA and ask them to enforce the Animal Welfare Act on behalf of Lolita. APHIS oversees the enforcement of the Animal Welfare Act and the USDA oversees APHIS.
When you write to them here are some points to mention:
Lolita has spent over 50 years at the Miami Seaquarium in an undersized tank with no shade to protect her from direct sunlight and no protection from the weather, including hurricanes. Her exposure to the sun and weather violates Section 3.103(3)(b) of the Animal Welfare Act.
Lolita’s tank is also 13 feet shorter than what is required by the Animal Welfare Act (Section 3.104). Lolita is 22 feet long and weighs over 7,000 pounds. Her tank is way too small for an orca of her size.
Send your letters or email to:
Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack
U.S. Department of Agriculture
1400 Independence Avenue, SW, Room 200-A
Washington, DC 20250
Eastern Regional Director
USDA—APHIS Animal Care
920 Main Campus Drive, Suite 200
Raleigh, NC 27606
National Marine Fisheries Service
Call or write to National Marine Fisheries Service and request a current Marine Mammal Inventory Report (MMIR) for the Miami Seaquarium.
Office of Protected Resources
1315 East-West Highway, 13th Floor
Silver Spring, MD 20910
Phone: (301) 427-8400
The Dolphin Company
In October 2021, The Dolphin Company assumed ownership of Miami Seaquarium. They need to hear from you! Write to or call The Dolphin Company to tell them you want to see Lolita retired to her home waters of Washington State.
Send them an email on their contact page.
Call them at: +52 (998) 881 7400
Mail your letters to:
The Dolphin Company Corporate Offices
Banco Chinchorro, Lote 8, Mz. 1, Sm. 13
Cancun, Quintana Roo, Mexico.
Related Reading: More on Miami Seaquarium
More Ways To Help Captive Dolphins
Take the pledge NOT to buy a ticket to a dolphin show and invite your friends and family to pledge, too!
Make a tax deductible donation to Support our international campaigns. Your support is critical to our work to end the exploitation of dolphins all over the world.
Explore our activism guides to meeting with legislators, public demonstrations and other community action to help end cetacean captivity in your area.