With the release of the documentary Blackfish in 2013, there has been intense debate on whether killer whales should be kept in aquariums. Recently dolphins have wriggled their way into this debate with the help of the National Aquarium in Baltimore.
According to WSAV-TV, the National Aquarium is relocated eight of their dolphins to a refuge in either the Florida Keys or the Caribbeans, with plans to release all of their remaining dolphins to the refuge by 2020 if all goes according to plan. This move is the first to be made involving the release of aquatic mammals instead of alternative methods such as the constriction of larger enclosures.
“There’s no model anywhere, that we’re aware of, for this,” said John Racanelli, the current CEO of the National Aquarium. “We’re pioneering here, and we know it’s neither the easiest nor the cheapest option.”
They will have to tread carefully though, as rehabilitation into a more open environment can come with its risks. Keiko, the whale from the 1993 family movie Free Willy and two dolphins in 1996 didn’t have success when it came to being set free in what critics are calling “glorified sea pens.”
Luckily, the National Aquarium is taking their time with the location.
“[The location] will have full-time staff, excellent water quality in a temperate climate, isolation pools for medical care or temporary refuge from harmful conditions and barriers to stop breeding among the dolphins or mingling with wild dolphins,” assured Racanelli.
Even though the move will not happen for another four years, it has caused some mixed feelings, though none quite sum up the bittersweet feeling like 10-year-old Ella Ransome’s.
“I think they should be free,” said Ransome to the Sun Herald. “But I’m sad that they’re leaving. I’ll miss them.”