National Aquarium in Baltimore to move dolphins into refuge

Posted at 3:22 PM, Jun 14, 2016

MIAMI (AP) — Eight dolphins that once performed at the National Aquarium in Baltimore will be retired from their tanks to a seaside sanctuary.

The aquarium is announcing plans to move its Atlantic bottlenose dolphins into a protected habitat by the end of 2020.

Seven of the dolphins were born in captivity. CEO John Racanelli tells The Associated Press the animals will remain in human care in the sanctuary.

The aquarium hasn't settled on a location. It's been considering new options for its dolphins for several years amid growing public distaste for live animal shows.

The dolphins stopped scheduled performances in 2012 but remain on display.

SeaWorld is making similar changes to its killer whale shows but has balked along with other industry leaders at releasing orcas or dolphins into the ocean.

Animal rights activists applaud decision

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals criticized SeaWorld earlier this year for not releasing its orcas from their tanks among other changes at its theme parks.

In a statement Tuesday, PETA Executive Vice President Tracy Reiman said the Baltimore aquarium could prompt other institutions to retire their dolphins and orcas to sanctuaries as well. She said the aquarium recognized "the needs of intelligent, far-ranging dolphins" aren't met in captivity.

The Association of Zoos and Aquariums says each of its members makes decisions "appropriate for the animals" in its care. In a statement, Interim President and CEO Kris Vehrs says the National Aquarium will work with state and federal agencies as it moves forward with the dolphins' relocation.