While the decision to end its animal shows may come as welcome news among people who see them as inherently exploitative, their continued presence at the aquarium is likely to remain a point of controversy. Gigi Glendinning, from animal welfare group 22 Reasons, is critical of the aquarium for showcasing rescued dolphins in pools at all, arguing that if they are unable to return to the wild, they should at least be moved to sea pens and not be put on display for profit.
"I believe everyone would have applauded a separate facility in the city to educate the public – including their computer games and mock rescue to engage kids – all the while bringing in money without exploiting any of their animals," Glendinning told The Dodo in an email.
"They could have large screens with remote cameras showing their ‘daily routines' and care of the animals or better yet, they could offer remote views of wild dolphins."
Clearwater Aquarium isn't the first to move away from dolphin shows in light of public opinion, largely attributed to backlash from the documentaries "Blackfish" and "The Cove." The National Aquarium in Baltimore also has ended its long-running dolphin shows and has since unveiled plans to move their animals into a seaside sanctuary.