National Aquarium to Move All Dolphins to Sanctuary

The relocation is expected to be complete by 2020.

Baltimore's National Aquarium announced that by 2020 it will relocate its eight Atlantic bottlenose dolphins to a sanctuary.

The dolphins, all but one born in captivity, range in age from 7-year-old Bayley to 44-year-old Nani. The latter was captured by a marine park in Texas in 1972 and has been at National Aquarium since 1990.

RELATED: Dolphin Freed from Aquarium Seen Years Later with Baby

The location of the sanctuary is still being discussed, according to the aquarium, with sites in Florida and the Caribbean under consideration.

"Our vision is to create an outdoor facility where the dolphins will swim in natural sea water, with a vegetated shoreline – mangroves, sea grapes, etc. -- in a flexible habitat configuration featuring pools that can be customized to meet individual dolphin needs," the aquarium offered in a statement.

WATCH VIDEO: "Dolphins Give Each Other Unique Names"

The aquarium said it has spent the past five years studying ways to give its dolphins a more natural environment – looking at everything from existing tank renovations to moving the marine mammals to a new accredited facility.

"After careful consideration," said the aquarium, "we've concluded that the best way forward is to create a protected, year-round seaside refuge."

RELATED: Deep-Diving Dolphins Avoid 'Bends' with Powerful Lungs

The aquarium said it was not moving the dolphins in response to SeaWorld's recent announcement that it would end its orca breeding orca program. Instead, it insisted an improved understanding of the animals warranted the change: "Because we now know more than ever before about them, their needs and our audiences, the time is right for this initiative."

Hat tip: Baltimore Sun