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Clearwater Marine Aquarium

Clearwater Marine Aquarium is a 501(c)(3) or charitable non-profit organization, and aquarium in Clearwater, Florida. Its mission is to help sick and wounded marine wildlife by rescuing, rehabilitating, and releasing them, as well as public education, conservation, and research. The Clearwater Marine Aquarium first opened its doors in 1972, at a disused water treatment facility on Clearwater Beach (the large pools being well-suited for rehabilitation operations). The aquarium is home to a variety of marine life species, all of which have major ailments that prohibit them from returning to the wild. The aquarium’s current location, an abandoned water treatment plant, was donated to CMSC by the city of Clearwater in 1978. The structure was an ideal match for a marine facility’s demands, with its large holding pools and bayside position. Dennis Kellenberger, a marine scientist, was recruited as CMSC’s Executive Director in 1979. The cement and steel structure was gradually adapted for aquarium uses, and in 1980 it was awarded a USDA Research Facility permit, allowing it to establish two 65,000 gallon pools for dolphin and sea turtle rehabilitation. The first display area was offered to the general public in 1981. Old exhibits from the Sea-Orama, a mounted fish exhibit that used to be on show at the Clearwater Marina, were on display in this chamber. CMSC continues to develop over the following few years, thanks to individual and corporate donations as well as tremendous volunteer work. CMSC rescued a stranded Atlantic bottlenose dolphin dubbed “Sunset Sam” in 1984, making him the first dolphin to survive a beaching in Florida. Sunset, however, was unable to be returned into the wild owing to persistent liver issues and became CMSC’s first resident dolphin. Sunset Sam was trained to paint as a method of animal enrichment, and the proceeds from his sales went to support the CMSC’s operations and stranding program. Winter, a bottlenose dolphin who was rescued in December 2005 after having her tail trapped in a crab trap, was the aquarium’s most well-known permanent resident. Her injuries resulted in the loss of her tail, and the aquarium provided her with a prosthetic tail, drawing international attention to the facility. Winter went on to feature in the 2011 film Dolphin Tale and its sequel, Dolphin Tale 2, which were both partly shot on site at the aquarium. North American river otters, Atlantic bottlenose dolphins, Rough-toothed dolphins, green sea turtles, Kemp’s ridley sea turtles, cownose rays, southern stingrays, nurse sharks, great white pelicans, and other fish, including gag, hogfish, and red drum, are currently housed at Clearwater Marine Aquarium. National Marine Fisheries judged each permanent resident non-releasable, unable to return to the wild owing to injuries or other disabilities. National Marine Fisheries chose CMA as the ideal site for their permanent home after being ruled non-releasable owing to the staff and amenities CMA can give.

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