Clearwater Marine Aquarium (CMA) is not your typical aquarium. Located on Clearwater’s Island Estates, the establishment works as an animal hospital with the mission of the rescue, rehabilitation and release of marine life.
The story of the rescue and rehabilitation of Clearwater Marine Aquarium’s permanent residents Winter and Hope, both Atlantic bottlenose dolphins, has inspired millions around the world through the movies Dolphin Tale and Dolphin Tale 2.
Winter was found stranded in Mosquito Lagoon, near Cape Canaveral, Florida when she was only two months old, entangled in a crab trap line which cut off circulation to her tail flukes. After disentanglement, she was transported to Clearwater Marine Aquarium for treatment of her extensive injuries. However, despite exhaustive efforts to promote healing, her tail deteriorated and could not be saved. Hanger Prosthetics and Orthotics, Inc., together with CMA staff, created a unique plan to attach a prosthetic tail to Winter.
Her story has inspired millions around the world with the message of perseverance and hope. People relate to the strength it takes to overcome obstacles, as brave animals exemplify that every day. By inviting guests to see firsthand how CMA cares for these animals, they create powerful experiences that can change lives and make a difference.
CMA staff and volunteers work each day to rescue marine life and provide the most advanced and effective care to maximize the opportunity to return sick or injured animals to their homes. The animals at Clearwater Marine Aquarium arrive because they are suffering from an illness or severe injury.
Once an animal arrives at CMA, a team of experienced staff biologists, veterinarians and volunteers create a rehabilitation plan specifically developed based on its injury or illness, with the goal of returning it to the wild.
Sometimes the injuries are so severe, or the animal is so young, that it would not be in the animal’s best interest to release it back into the wild. CMA works with agencies such as National Marine Fisheries and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to make these decisions. If the animal is unable to be released back into the wild, it becomes a permanent member of the CMA family, and lives there to serve as an ambassador for its species to help promote environmental conservation.
Clearwater Marine Aquarium’s Education Department is dedicated to inspiring guests of all ages to appreciate the marine environment while promoting conservation. The team strives to develop an understanding for the irreplaceable value of all marine life. By teaching children and adults the importance of conservation, ecology and stewardship, CMA believes they will apply this knowledge to make sustainable choices and take an active part in preserving the marine environment.