Miami Seaquarium chooses to not to renew accreditation for its trainers

MIAMI – The Miami Seaquarium has reportedly chosen not to renew its earned accreditation for its trainers.

On its website, the Seaquarium used to boast about its International Marine Animal Trainers’ Association (IMATA) trainer development programs.

IMATA’s Accreditation for Animal Trainer Development Programs was originally developed to recognize those facilities that have exceptional systems for training animals.

“IMATA is the standard for proper training of animals. It makes sure the trainers are taking care of animals and training them the way they are supposed to,” said Attorney Daniel Wehking, a former animal caretaker and diver at Miami Seaquarium.

Wehking told Local 10 News that something caught his eye and that the logo for IMATA is now missing from the Seaquarium’s accreditation webpage.

“The loss of accreditation is cause for concern. I am concerned and everyone in South Florida should be concerned that the Miami Seaquarium may not be taking care of their dolphins in the way they are supposed to,” he said.

An IMATA spokesperson said in a statement that the Seaquarium didn’t lose its accreditation, they just chose not to renew despite it being valid for a five-year term.

To reinstate their accreditation, Miami Seaquarium would be required to submit a new application and undergo a comprehensive on-site audit with IMATA inspectors.

Wehking says county leaders need to “immediately” investigate this and figure out why it is happening.

The Seaquarium’s decision not to renew earned accreditation for its trainers has caught the attention of county commissioners.

“We are actually going to be meeting with them in the next few days to see what their plans are,” said Miami-Dade County Commissioner Raquel Regalado

Regalado’s district told Local 10 News following Lolita’s death, the Seaquarium is going through a transition.

“I think we are going to see like a Seaquarium 2.0 and a broader conversation of what the future of that site is and how much of it will be animal-based and how much would be an ‘edutainment’-based model,” Regalado told Local 10 News in a phone interview Thursday.

A spokesperson for Miami-Dade Parks, Recreation and Open Spaces told Local 10 News that IMATA accreditation “is not required by the Miami-Dade County lease agreement and its expiration does not affect or violate the terms of the agreement.”

“Without this accreditation, there is no check that the trainers are able to do what they are supposed to or are doing what they are supposed to with the marine animals that live in the Seaquarium,” said Wehking.

Miami Seaquarium chose not to respond to a request for a statement on this matter.

Read IMATA’s full statement here:

About the Author:

Christina returned to Local 10 in 2019 as a reporter after covering Hurricane Dorian for the station. She is an Edward R. Murrow Award-winning journalist and previously earned an Emmy Award while at WPLG for her investigative consumer protection segment "Call Christina."