Aquarium Sanctuary

National Aquarium in Baltimore had been eyeing seaside sites in the Caribbean and Florida, including the Keys, to house its prospective dolphin sanctuary by the end of 2020. The group says the Keys are no longer in the running.

Since the National Aquarium set a 2020 goal to retire a pod of dolphins to a seaside sanctuary either in the Florida Keys or the Caribbean, rising seas, pollution, algal blooms, natural disasters and the ongoing coronavirus pandemic have scuttled that effort and most likely eliminated the Florida Keys as a prospect.

“While finding a suitable location in the U.S. or in the Caribbean has proven challenging due to several factors including climate change and the pandemic, we remain steadfast in our search for a new home for our dolphins,” a National Aquarium spokesperson wrote to the Free Press. “While we are currently more focused on the Caribbean, we will continue to consider all possibilities.”

The National Aquarium announced in 2016 that the dolphin pod would be retired from entertaining guests daily and moved to a more natural environment where they could thrive. Since the announcement, aquarium staff has been working with the dolphins to enable them to be more independent in a natural setting.

John Racanelli, National Aquarium CEO, announced a deadline of 2020 to find the perfect spot either off the coast of Florida or in the Caribbean and reportedly surveyed more than 50 sites.

The soaring cost of the Florida Keys real estate may have eliminated the island chain.

Racanelli said the aquarium focused on possible sites in the Keys, but struggled to find one that’s both suitable for the dolphins and affordable, according to an article in the Baltimore Fishbowl.

“Whenever locals learn the aquarium is looking in their area,” he said, “People come out of the woodwork’ seeking high prices,” the article says.

“The National Aquarium has therefore begun to look beyond the Florida Keys.”