CLEARWATER, Fla. (WFLA) – An upcoming mermaid show at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium in Florida has been cancelled.
The announcement comes following a meeting with performers who had been recorded, without their knowledge, while changing into their mermaid costumes in December 2020. Those mermaid performers didn’t learn about what happened for months.
“Out of respect for the mermaid performers, there will not be a mermaid show at CMA this spring,” a representative with the aquarium told Nexstar’s WFLA on Friday night.
The CMA had hired a private law firm to conduct an independent investigation into the incident last year. In August 2021, the investigation determined the recording was accidental, according to a statement issued by the aquarium.
“The Clearwater Marine Aquarium today announced that an independent investigation determined that in 2020 one of the facility’s security cameras accidentally recorded a group of female workers as they changed clothes,” the aquarium’s statement read, in part. “The workers, all adults, were using a room that was not usually used for changing clothes and that a camera monitoring the room was inadvertently left on and not immediately noticed.”
At the time, CMA board chairman Paul Auslander admitted there were “missteps by CMA staff which led to the delay in bringing the issue to light.”
The executive who possessed the recording was suspended and later resigned. The aquarium’s CEO has since retired.
Ashley Mengel was one of the performers who was recorded. She said it felt like a slap in the face when she and others came forward demanding answers about what happened, only to learn that an upcoming mermaid show was contracted to another group.
“Cancelling is only right after we were violated and lied to,” Mengel said in a text message. “And then our images were used to advertise the event we were fired from for being victims.”
Caroline Don, another performer, shared similar sentiments.
“It really feels like they want this to be quiet now, like the meeting (on Monday) and canceling the spring event is the end,” she said in an email on Friday night. “We’re still communicating with them and waiting on answers of some of our questions from that meeting.”
No one with the aquarium was available for an interview on Saturday morning, but the aquarium’s president, Dr. James Powell, said on Monday, following the mermaid meeting, that he is committed to doing the right thing.
“All of our staff at CMA and our senior staff are committed to making necessary changes and adjustments,” Powell said. “And we’ve taken these women very, very seriously. And we’ve heard them. “
After announcing the cancellation of the upcoming mermaid show, a representative touted the aquarium’s other spring events.
“CMA is pleased to offer the new Remembering Winter VR experience and Rescue Town children’s play zone this spring,” the statement read. “We will also continue to work on sea turtle awareness and our life-saving manatee rescue efforts.”