As anyone with a shred of compassion or common sense will know, intelligent, highly sociable, and free-ranging dolphins and whales were never meant to spend their lives in a tank. Ever since the stunning documentaries “The Cove” and “Blackfish” were released, people all over the world have been rising up in protest against the practice of keeping these animals confined for the sake of human entertainment.

And now, in yet another sign that the cetacean captivity industry is starting to crumble, the National Aquarium in Baltimore is contemplating the release of its eight captive dolphins!

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The National Aquarium Institute, which runs the facility at Baltimore, has hired a multidisciplinary team of consultants to help board members decide, among other issues, whether they should continue to hold onto Spirit, Chesapeake (known to fans as “Chessie”), and their six companions.

Architect Jeanne Gang, a key member of the consulting team, has made her preferences – and the preferences of the aquarium’s CEO, John Racanelli – very clear.

“They currently have eight dolphins in their collection, and as public opinion and science move forward, we all know cetaceans are highly intelligent,” she said, in an address at the Cooper Hewitt National Deisgn Museum earlier this year.

“Maybe some of you have seen ‘Blackfish’ and ‘The Cove’… So, as this new CEO (John Racanelli) entered the National Aquarium, he really wanted to stop housing these animals in captivity. And one of the first things he did was stop having dolphin shows.”

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In a press release made public on Wednesday, the Baltimore facility stated that:

With a heightened understanding of the emerging science and an intimate knowledge of the eight dolphins in the National Aquarium’s care, the National Aquarium is studying and evaluating all possible options for providing them with the best possible living environment in the years ahead. A Dolphin Summit will take place at the National Aquarium later this month that brings together experts from the aquatic world to determine the feasibility of a variety of solutions, including designing and building a dolphin sanctuary in an ocean-side setting and exploring in detail the requirements for operating such a facility.

The National Aquarium’s apparent willingness to move from a captivity-based business model to a more sanctuary-orientated one is definitely a huge step in the right direction!

Racanelli told the Baltimore Brew that while he has not yet made a definite decision about releasing the aquarium’s dolphins, he feels that as CEO, “my main role has been to ask the question. Is this a concept we need to rethink? We’re still exploring all the options. It’s very important we be guided by the science.”

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However, there is no doubt that if the National Aquarium does decide to retire its dolphins to a sea sanctuary, it could become a real trailblazer in its industry, perhaps encouraging other aquaria and marine facilities to follow suit.

What do you think of this new development, Green Monsters? Let us know by leaving a comment!

Image source: Joseph Bylund/Flickr

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