The aquarium is dedicated to the rescue, rehabilitation, and release of injured marine animals, public eduaction, and animal-assisted therapy and research.
Clearwater Marine Aquarium opened in 1972 at its current location on Clearwater Beach, a former water treatment plant (the large tanks being well-suited for rehabilitation operations).
Numerous forms of marine life reside at the aquarium (including dolphins, sharks, rays, and otters), some temporarily until they can be released, while others have serious injuries which do not permit their return to the wild, and thus become permanent residents.
The aquarium's best-known permanent resident, and the focus of its marketing campaigns, is Winter, a bottlenose dolphin who was rescued in December 2005 after having her tail caught in a crab trap. Her injuries caused the loss of her tail, and the aquarium fitted her with a prosthetic tail which brought worldwide attention to the facility. Winter later starred in the 2011 Dolphin Tale, shot partially on location at the aquarium.
Tips on how YOU can help the environment
TEN TIPS FOR A HEALTHIER OCEAN
Helping marine animals like Winter may be easier than you think! Following these simple tips is a great way to start:
ON THE BEACH:
1. Litter is lethal to marine life. Avoid bringing disposable plastics to the beach. Many animals accidentally eat the plastic, making them sick. Others become entangled in it, causing injury or even death. Some plastics take over 400 years to break down in the marine environment, so bring reusable containers instead of bags and wraps.
2. Bring a bucket to the beach. Great for playing and building sandcastles, then use it at the end of the day for collecting litter to put in the trash.
3. Watch what you're "dune". Dunes and grasses protect inland areas from wind, wave action, and help preserve the shore. They provide habitat for nesting birds and animals, and they stop litter from blowing into our waterways. So tread lightly and use walkways whenever possible to avoid the dunes.
4. Critter encounter. The shore is home to thousands of fascinating creatures. Observe them from a distance and try not to disturb them, for both their safety and yours. If you see an animal entangled, injured, or in danger, contact a lifeguard, law officer, park ranger or wildlife rehabilitator.
ON THE WATER:
5. Practice catch and release fishing. Over-fishing is a primary threat to many of the world's game and food source fish. Preserve stocks by releasing fish. Use barbless single hooks and try to handle the fish as little as possible.
6. Don't leave fishing line behind. Fishing line can entangle and kill wildlife. Cut used line into small pieces to dispose in the garbage or bring to a local tackle shop for recycling. Pick up any loose line you see, being careful of any attached hooks.
7. Save water by using less. For example, turn off the water while brushing teeth, take shorter showers, and if washing a car, use a qualified facility that recycles water.
8. Recycle. Recycle items from your school, work and home. Most towns have recycling centers for plastic, cans, paper and glass. Encourage your school, work and home to buy recycled paper and other products.
9. Don't put harmful chemicals down the sink. These chemicals ultimately end up in our waterways. Decrease or limit your use of phosphates, which promote algae blooms in waterways that harm marine life. For dishes, use soap rather than detergent. For dishwashers, try using 50% washing soda (sodium carbonate) and 50% Borax or a detergent with low phosphate content.
10. Educate yourself and pass it along. Learn all you can about your favorite marine animals and habitats. Visit a local nature center, park or aquarium to learn about the surrounding environment and its resources. Share the information with family and friends, so everyone can help save the ocean and it all its incredible creatures.
Every little bit counts, so spread the word and do your part to help make the world a cleaner, safer place for all!