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Baltimore National Aquarium to Build North America's First Seaside Sanctuary for Retired Dolphins

Jun 15, 2016 06:39 AM EDT

Baltimore's National Aquarium has announced on Tuesday that they will move the dolphins under its care into an ocean sanctuary. Eight dolphins that have been in captivity will retire in the seaside facility.

According to ABC News, the announcement has been well-received by environmental groups such as the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and Humane Society of the United States. John Racanelli, CEO of the National Aquarium, revealed that the sanctuary will be measured in acres, have a full-time staff, excellent water quality and isolation pools for dolphins in need of medical attention.

"There's no model anywhere, that we're aware of, for this. We're pioneering here, and we know it's neither the easiest nor the cheapest option, Racanelli said.

This sanctuary will be the first one in the country. Different from tanks, the said facility will have an outdoor, enclosed area that's bigger than where the dolphins are currently located. This will give the mammals a chance to live in a natural environment where they can interact with fish and plant life.

Research has shown that dolphins' high intellect requires them to express themselves in their own habitat and form social groups for their well-being. Living in tight tanks could affect the dolphins psychologically, resulting to aggressive behavior. In 2012, the National Aquarium in Baltimore has stopped dolphin performances but has not since moved the mammals in a bigger facility.

New York Times reports that there is no location for the sanctuary at the moment, but Florida and the Carribean have been considered. The said project is expected to be built in 2020 but costs are yet to be determined.

Racanelli explained, “Up until now, the alternatives did not include having an oceanside seawater facility that dolphins could go to and not be engaged in something like a swim program or some other kind of revenue-producing model. We’ve set the criteria that the needs and interests of the dolphins will come first, and that hasn’t really been tried yet.”

Lori Marino, President of the Whale Sanctuary Project, also welcomed the plan. Marino said that this "breakthrough decision" will greatly improve the well-being of dolphins that have lived in tanks for so many years.

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