According to the aquarium, the sanctuary will be located in subtropical or tropical waters and will provide more space for the dolphins to swim and dive, as well as natural stimuli like fish and marine plants.
As most of the dolphins were born into captivity, they will continue to be under human care, but the sanctuary will allow them to live out their days in an environment much closer to their natural habitat.
The oldest dolphin, a female named Nani, is the only wild-caught dolphin, and was captured in the Gulf of Mexico in 1975. Jade, a 17-year-old female, was born at SeaWorld Orlando and was transferred to the National Aquarium in 2006. The other six dolphins, including Nani's daughter, Spirit, and son, Beau, were born into captivity at the National Aquarium.
"The sanctuary [will be] ... defined by a set of principles and corresponding practices, ensuring that a 'dolphin-first' approach is the guiding philosophy," the aquarium said on its website. The aquarium is also "open to accommodating dolphins from other facilities."