Creating the Future for Dolphins in our Care

Through the creation of North America’s first dolphin sanctuary, the National Aquarium is introducing a new option for human care of dolphins. The sanctuary’s mission is to advance understanding and protection of cetaceans by offering a natural environment in which the colony of dolphins in our care will thrive.


An Unwavering Commitment to the Dolphins in Our Care


The health and welfare of the dolphins is our enduring priority. Expert staff will provide a lifetime of customized individual care, ensuring that the needs of each dolphin are understood and met in a sanctuary setting.


In addition to representing a place, the sanctuary is also defined by a set of principles and corresponding practices, ensuring that a “dolphin-first” approach is the guiding philosophy of the new facility.


Researchers will advance studies not feasible in either open-ocean or aquarium settings, expanding our understanding of wild dolphins and those in human care.

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Defining the dolphin sanctuary

A place as well as a set of principles and corresponding practices


  • A new option for dolphins in human care.
  • An outdoor facility, in natural sea water, with a flexible habitat configuration that can be customized to meet individual dolphin needs.
  • A center for applied science that advances knowledge and conservation.
  • A facility with independent and sustainable funding for dolphin care.


  • We are “dolphin first” — the individual needs of the dolphins take priority over those of all others, including the public, scientists and donors.
  • We value affording the highest level of choice and control to the dolphins.
  • We believe in fostering a collaborative learning environment among all our stakeholders, including the dolphins.
  • We value the development of techniques and technologies that advance our ability to study dolphins in the wild.


  • Provide customized, individual care for each dolphin.
  • Enable and participate in studies that benefit dolphins in the wild and in human care.
  • Open to accommodating dolphins from other facilities.
  • Prevent pregnancy while allowing natural behaviors among the dolphins. Read More
  • Share our work with others through on-site and remote education opportunities.


Designing a Place to Thrive

Tropical Climate

The dolphins will live in natural seawater in a tropical or sub-tropical location, mirroring the habitat in which wild dolphins thrive.

Dynamic Habitat

The design will be flexible to allow for different spatial configurations to keep the dolphins engaged and able to form social groupings that suit them.

Natural Stimuli

The setting will provide the dolphins with opportunities to express natural behaviors while exposing them to stimuli, such as fish and marine plants.

Customized Care

Marine mammal experts will provide full-time, individual care to the dolphins, supported by a full-time veterinarian and on-site clinical care facilities.

Continued Connection

The dolphins will continue to be a part of the National Aquarium community; plans call for a digital connection between the new site and Baltimore.


Get the most up-to-date information and learn more about the sanctuary by visiting our frequently asked questions page.

View FAQs

An artist's rendering of the proposed dolphin sanctuary.


Join the Movement

You can make North America’s first dolphin sanctuary a reality. Join us by making a tax-deductible donation to the National Aquarium today.

Give Now

Image by Studio Gang


Be a Part of the Conversation

This pioneering effort will create both excitement and questions. We look forward to advancing the dialogue around this important topic.

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The National Aquarium is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to inspire conservation of the world’s aquatic treasures.