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Miami Seaquarium Fined $7,000 for Letting Trainers Work With Lolita Unprotected

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Animal activists are claiming a victory today after the Occupational Safety and Health Administration hit Miami Seaquarium with a pretty hefty fine for letting trainers work with Lolita the orca without proper safety precautions.

In 2010, SeaWorld trainer Dawn Brancheau died while she was swimming in a pool with an orca. Since the incident, OSHA has required there be physical barriers or a safe amount of distance between orcas and trainers during performances.

The Animal Legal Defense Fund caught trainers breaking those requirements on video, and OSHA has responded by fining the Seaquarium a "serious" $7,000.

"We celebrate OSHA's swift enforcement against this dangerous facility," Stephen Wells, executive director of the Animal Legal Defense Fund, said in a statement. "The Miami Seaquarium is risking trainers' lives to exploit Lolita, a wild-captured orca, for huge revenue. The corporation continues to disregard worker safety and animal welfare laws as long as it brings in big profits."

The Seaquarium was also cited but not fined for other violations. OSHA found that some employees who were scuba diving were not properly trained in CPR and first aid and did not have a proper reserve cylinder of oxygen on them, nor were the times of dives properly logged.

The complaint and fine is just the latest battle in a war between the Seaquarium and animal activists.

Lolita has been in captivity since 1970 and lives in the smallest orca tank in North America. In 2005, her original family, the Puget Sound L-pod, was protected under the Endangered Species Act. Activists hope to have the protective status applied to Lolita as well, with the ultimate goal of returning her to a seaside sanctuary in Puget Sound, Washington.

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