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Miami-Dade County to company that runs Miami Seaquarium: Lease on property ends April 21

Miami-Dade County told the Dolphin Company, which runs the Miami Seaquarium, in a letter on Thursday that the county is terminating the company’s lease for the property because of violations in how it is maintained.

Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said in a news conference that terminating the lease is the best path forward for the safety of the animals, residents and visitors.

The Dolphin Company has been told it must vacate by April 21.

The Seaquarium is home to roughly 500 animals that include fish, birds, reptiles and marine mammals, Levine Cava said. It is located on the island of Virginia Key in Biscayne Bay.

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All the animals are owned by the Dolphin Company, and it is up to them what happens to them, she said. The mayor added that the county is working on contingency plans in case any animals are left behind when the company vacates.

Eduardo Alberto, CEO of the Dolphin Company, posted on social media platform X during the mayor’s news conference that “we are outside and anything she haas [sic] to say about @MiamiSeaquarium we have the right to hear and be heard. … Waiting outside your office mayor. Dare to speak in front of us.”

Miami-Dade’s violations list

Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levina Cava, right, speaks at a news conference on March 7. She cited a "long and troubling history of violations" in a lease termination notice sent to the chief executive officer of the Dolphin Company. Miami-Dade Commissioner Raquel Regalado listens at left. - Marta Lavandier/AP
Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levina Cava, right, speaks at a news conference on March 7. She cited a "long and troubling history of violations" in a lease termination notice sent to the chief executive officer of the Dolphin Company. Miami-Dade Commissioner Raquel Regalado listens at left. - Marta Lavandier/AP

“The current state of the Miami Seaquarium is unsustainable and unsafe,” Levine Cava said during the news conference. “Meanwhile, our number one priority continues to be the safety and wellbeing of the animals, and moving forward we’ll do everything we can to ensure that they are well cared for.”

The Seaquarium has failed to maintain the Flipper Stadium, Manatee Tank Area and Dolphin Stadium, the county said. Other violations include several structures not being maintained property, and dangerous conditions have resulted in injuries to some animals, the county said.

There are also decaying animal habitats, lack of veterinary staff and lack of experience by some staff handling the animals, Levine Cava added.

In statement sent to CNN late Friday afternoon, Albor contested many of the violations.

He said that on March 11, “the tenant will deliver proof to the landlord that none of the defaults or violations occurred, have been cured, or are in the process of being cured during the period specified in the contract.

“Consequently, there are no grounds for lease termination, and the tenant will maintain possession and operation of the Miami Seaquarium for the remaining duration of the lease agreement, or until a court ruling dictates otherwise.

“We are confident that upon receiving our response with proof of compliance, the landlord will honor the lease agreement,” the statement said.

Seaquarium in the news

The Seaquarium was home to Lolita, a killer whale that was taken from the ocean in 1970.

Last year, Lolita was set to be released back into the ocean after animal welfare activists fought for her release. Lolita died before she could be released.

The advocacy group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) celebrated the news in a posted statement on its website on Thursday.

“After more than 50 years of miserable animals and false promises to clean up its act, the Seaquarium’s impending shutdown is overdue,” said PETA Vice President Tracy Reiman. “And PETA looks to Miami-Dade County authorities to keep up the good work by ensuring that these animals are sent to reputable facilities where they’ll get the care they so desperately need.”

CNN’s Rebekah Riess contributed to this report.

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