After six marine mammals died in just over a year at the Miami Seaquarium, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has found critical issues with how the facility was managed, including murky pools overgrown with algae and poor diets for its top performers that sometimes included rotting fish. Magdalena Rodriguez, a longtime vet who was fired by the Seaquarium in June, detailed similar issues to the Miami Herald, including staff shortages, broken equipment and poor water quality that endangered animals including Lolita, the park’s star killer whale.
Between March 2019 and April 2020, five bottlenose dolphins and a baby California sea lion died. Managers didn’t keep track of pool placement, which caused bad pairings and violent fights, Rodriguez said. “If you walked around and looked at those dolphins, they were not just raking [a sign of aggression] themselves. They were ramming each other,” she said. The deaths were initially brushed off by the Seaquarium as a sad coincidence. Since the USDA report, park manager Bill Lentz said they’re working with the USDA to make improvements.