Like many dolphins living in captivity, the eight-animal pod of marine mammals at Baltimore’s National Aquarium has spent its entire life within an indoor concrete tank. They've never hunted live fish, seen a bed of seaweed, felt the rain, or even had access to direct sunlight. Now, all that is about to change.

PBS NewsHour reports that the National Aquarium has announced plans to build an enormous outdoor dolphin sanctuary off the coast of Florida or the Caribbean. The aquarium will relocate its dolphins by 2020. It is the first aquarium to announce dolphin relocation plans.

At the moment, the dolphins at the National Aquarium live in a million-and-a-half-gallon tank of artificial seawater. The sanctuary, meanwhile, will be somewhere in the tens of millions, or even hundreds of millions of gallons, according to National Aquarium CEO John Racanelli.

In the video above, PBS NewsHour goes behind the scenes at the National Aquarium, where Racanelli and aquarium chief science officer Brent Whitaker are planning the sanctuary and getting the dolphins ready for the move. Racanelli explains that public opinion about dolphins kept in captivity has started to shift, and the aquarium is responding to both that change and research on how captivity affects dolphins.

While the aquarium is still committed to educating visitors about their dolphins, they will likely do so using a live video stream. “I think that we will be able to ensure that people still get a chance to tune into the lives of these dolphins in a way that still inspires them, yet not have to have them here in Baltimore,” explains Racanelli. “Maybe dolphin Skype is in our future.”

[h/t PBS]

Banner image credit: iStock