After life in captivity, dolphins to undergo sea change

Chesapeake, a 24-year-old bottlenose dolphin at the Baltimore’s National Aquarium, has always lived indoors in a concrete tank. But she and the seven others in her pod are destined for a sea change. The aquarium plans to build a natural seawater sanctuary off the coast of either Florida or the Caribbean.

The decision to buy and build the sanctuary — and in 2020, move the dolphins — comes amid a rising tide of opposition to dolphinariums all over the world.

“Baby Boomers grew up on ‘Flipper,’ and Millennials grew up on ‘Free Willy,'” said John Racanelli, CEO of the National Aquarium. “So attitudes are changing.”

Still, the National Aquarium is alone in taking this bold, expensive step. At about 30 other dolphinariums in the U.S. alone, the show goes on.

PBS NewsHour Science correspondent Miles O’Brien dives into the debate and the 80-year history of dolphin shows. He talks to researchers who study the behavior and communication of dolphins in the wild and a dolphin trainer who had a drastic change of heart.

Watch the full report above or on Tuesday’s PBS NewsHour.

Support PBS NewsHour: