Baltimore’s National Aquarium plans to build North America’s first seaside dolphin sanctuary to house previously captive dolphins by 2020.
Eight captive bottlenose dolphins have the open waters to look forward to following the announcement that Baltimore’s National Aquarium will turn over the creatures to a first-of-its-kind ocean sanctuary. The aquarium, which attracts more than 1.3 million visitors annually, is scouting for locations off the coasts of Florida and the Caribbean for a seaside habitat to be built in which the dolphins—seven of which have never lived in the open ocean—can be released in a “new way for dolphins to thrive in human care.” “They have never before felt the rain on their dorsal fins, chased a mullet along a mangrove shore, or teased a startled crab,” aquarium chief executive officer John Racanelli wrote in the Baltimore Sun. “They will need to learn how to be ocean-dwelling dolphins, in a place with its own set of risks like pollution, noise, jellyfish and red tides, and we will help them build those skills.” According to National Public Radio, a vegetated shoreline featuring mangroves and sea grapes with “pools that can be customized to meet individual dolphin needs” are among planned features of the new sanctuary. The Baltimore Aquarium came to the resolution in response to evolving public concern about sea animals held in captivity, which also lead to its decision to decommission its dolphin performing acts four years ago. This is the latest development of its kind, following plans for the world’s first whale sanctuary and Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus’ move to retire its elephants earlier this year.