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Seaquarium trainers will no longer perform in water with Lolita

In this 2010 photo, trainer and curator Robert Rose is shown performing with Lolita the killer whale at the Miami Seaquarium. The attraction said Monday that trainers will no longer go in the water during show performances with Lolita following a citation from OSHA.
In this 2010 photo, trainer and curator Robert Rose is shown performing with Lolita the killer whale at the Miami Seaquarium. The attraction said Monday that trainers will no longer go in the water during show performances with Lolita following a citation from OSHA. Miami Herald File

Nearly a year after being cited by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration for the way trainers interact with Lolita the killer whale, the Miami Seaquarium said Monday that trainers were no longer going in the water during performances.

Representatives from the Virginia Key attraction would not comment beyond a statement they released Monday afternoon.

The Associated Press reported in July of 2014 that OSHA issued a $7,000 fine for letting trainers work with Lolita without the right protection. The agency started requiring barriers between trainers and killer whales in 2013 following a ruling in a case involving SeaWorld, where a trainer was killed when a whale pulled her into the water.

Last year, the Seaquarium said it would appeal the OSHA decision. Monday, the park announced it had agreed to settle, though “not based on any safety incidents with Lolita.”

“Lolita will continue to receive the same care, stimulation and attention that she has for nearly 45 years,” the Seaquarium said. “She will continue to be an ambassador for her species from her home at Miami Seaquarium.”

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, which has long pushed for Lolita to be freed from her tank, released a statement urging people to boycott the attraction until the whale is sent to a seaside sanctuary.

“Due to a settlement reached with the government, trainers at the Miami Seaquarium will no longer ride this endangered orca like a surfboard during performances,” Jared Goodman, PETA Foundation director of animal law, said in the statement. “This is no surprise, as the handwriting was on the wall: Had the Seaquarium continued to expose trainers to the danger of direct contact with orcas, it could well have followed in SeaWorld's footsteps with the loss of human life by deeply frustrated captive marine mammals.”

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