New Zealand's last surviving captive dolphin, Kelly, died last night at Marineland at the age of 38 after a short illness.
Marineland manager Gary McDonald said staff were upset but glad Kelly passed away peacefully and quickly.
The remaining animals at Marineland will continue to be looked after by staff.
Kelly was the last of four dolphins at the Napier tourist attraction after Cassana died in 1998, Selina in 1999 and Shona in 2006.
The closure of Marineland, the first port of call for hundreds of thousands of tourists who come to Napier each year, now seems imminent.
Napier Mayor Barbara Arnott recommended in July that her council confirm a strategy to close Marineland when Kelly died. The motion was passed 10-2 with councillors Maxine Boag and Harry Lawson opposing.
The council had allowed Marineland to remain open after Shona's death in April 2006, despite the 2001 strategy saying that when one of the two dolphins died, it would be closed.
Mrs Arnott said the death of Kelly was the end of an era.
"For Gary and the team at Marineland it is a grief within their Marineland family and I know that everyone will be feeling for them," she said.
A Clive woman whose husband was once the manager of Marineland said she was saddened to hear Kelly the dolphin had died but indicated it was time the Napier tourist attraction "moved on".
Ada McIlroy, 70, said her late husband Pat, a manager at Marineland from 1972 to 1977, had caught Kelly and another dolphin, Shona, for the park during the 1970s.
"I am sad but she was a good age. They can't live forever and she lived past her age. These things happen, it's like losing a family pet," Mrs McIlroy said.
She said Kelly was well known around the country and people came to Marineland especially to see the dolphins.
"It's not going to be the same there (at Marineland) now, it makes you wonder what's going to happen," Mrs McIlroy said.
"I think it's time Marineland moved on, we don't need animals kept in captivity anymore, that's my opinion," she said.
Pat McIlroy died 24 years ago. He was involved with catching dolphins in Hawke Bay because there was no law against it then.