CLEARWATER, Fla — Winter the Dolphin's ashes, encased in a Himalayan sea salt urn, were released into the Gulf of Mexico by her care team aboard a U.S. Coast Guard boat on January 13, 2022.
“Being able to return Winter to her natural home was the best feeling in the world,” said VP of Zoological Care Kelly Martin. “Our goal at Clearwater Marine Aquarium is always to rehabilitate rescued marine life so they can return to the wild. In Winter’s case, as is the case with all non-releasable animals, she unfortunately could not complete her return to the wild in life. But today, we were able to give her that final step – a return home.”
A C-130 flyover by the U.S. Coast Guard began the ceremony-at-sea followed by a poem. Thge aquarium said the ashes were released by Martin and Veterinarian Dr. Shelly Marquardt. Flower petals were released into the Gulf and the team blew bubbles. Which the team says was one of Winter’s favorite enrichment activities.
Winter was 16 years old when she died in the arms of her animal care team at Clearwater Marine Aquarium on November 11, 2021. Necropsy results showed the cause of Winter’s death was an intestinal torsion. Meaning Winter’s intestines had twisted.
"Winter the Dolphin inspired millions across the world with her message of perseverance. Her story of overcoming the loss of her tail flukes after being entangled in a crab trap, as told in Dolphin Tale and Dolphin Tale 2, resulted in a $2 billion impact to Pinellas County from 2012 to 2015 when the rest of the country was coming out of a recession. In 2020, Clearwater Marine Aquarium opened an $80 million expansion including a brand new 1.5 million-gallon water dolphin habitat providing CMA with the ability to care for more rescued and non-releasable dolphins."