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Clearwater Marine Aquarium’s $10 Million Manatee Rehabilitation Exhibit

Clearwater Marine Aquarium (CMA) is expanding their efforts in the fight to save manatees.

Earlier this month, they unveiled plans to transform the former Winter Zone into a habitat to rehabilitate manatees for release.

Officials estimate it could cost nearly $10 million to renovate Winter the dolphin’s previous home into a site for manatee rehab and research.

The CMA will become the fifth manatee rehabilitation center in Florida.

Site for new manatee rehab center at CMA

“Right here, where Winter’s legacy began, a new legacy will emerge as Clearwater Marine Aquarium furthers our commitment to saving Florida’s iconic species, the manatee,” said CEO Frank Dame.

CMA CEO Frank Dame

To commemorate the day, Clearwater Mayor Hibbard presented a signed proclamation naming September 7 “Save the Manatee Day.”

Mayor Hibbard proclaims Sept. 7 as “Save the Manatee Day.”

“I appreciate that CMA educates our citizens and our visitors on maintaining the quality of our marine life – it’s so critically important,” said Mayor Hibbard.

Rescued manatee calf feeding

This reveal comes on the heels of an announcement CMA made in July to open a rehabilitation center at their Fred Howard Park location this winter.

Fred Howard Park simulated manatee rehab.

The location, originally built to rehab cetaceans, will be ready to accept the influx of manatees affected by the ongoing Unusual Mortality Event (UME) occurring on the east coast of Florida as well as those in need of care from boat strike wounds and cold stress syndrome.

Monica Ross in a winter warm water sanctuary while removing tagging gear from manatees in Georgia. Photos taken by FWC Amber Howel.

Collectively, CMA estimates they will be adding approximately 12 more “beds” for manatees in need.

Jamal Galves rescues a manatee calf in Belize.

“The addition of both sites to the Manatee Rescue and Rehabilitation Partnership (MRP) capacity broadens our duty as devoted stewards to the species as well as to our colleagues,” said President and Executive Director of Clearwater Marine Aquarium Research Institute Dr. James “Buddy” Powell.

CMA President and Executive Director, Dr. James Powell

Clearwater Marine Aquarium presented a check to Andy Garrett with Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission on behalf of the MRP for ten thousand dollars, on top of the annual dues the organization already pays to fund the Partnership’s rescue and rehabilitation efforts.

Andy Garrett, FWC Marine Mammal Stranding Coordinator

“It takes all of us to protect and save our manatee population and we hope this small donation encourages others to donate as well,” said Powell.

Andy Garrett receives 10K check from CMA for Manatee Rescue Project.

To view a video of the announcement event, visit

For over a decade, Clearwater Marine Aquarium has assisted in rescuing, releasing, and tracking wild manatees around the world.

CMA rescue staff

Together with current rehabilitation techniques gained from the experience of its partners in the MRP and knowledge gained from post-release monitoring, CMA’s rehabilitation efforts will focus on behavioral and welfare components to further manatees’ adaptation to the wild post-release.

USFWS permit, credit Jason Gulley

Clearwater Marine Aquarium has received $95,000 in federal funding to assist in the construction of the new manatee rehabilitation sites.

Buddy “belting” a manatee in the Dominican Republic

It is seeking additional grants to help offset the costs. A fundraising campaign will also run through the duration of the construction.

For more information or to donate, visit

Clearwater Marine Aquarium

249 Windward Passage, Clearwater, FL

(727) 441-1790

Visit to make reservations and for admission specials.



Rescue boat

Clearwater Marine Aquarium (CMA) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit working marine rescue center dedicated to preserving our marine life and environment while inspiring the human spirit through leadership in education, research, rescue, rehabilitation and release. CMA is home to rescue dolphins, sea turtles, river otters, stingrays, nurse sharks and more. Winter, the dolphin’s story of survival after injury that caused her to lose her tail, has impacted millions of people around the world. A major motion picture, Dolphin Tale, highlighted her life story in 2011. The sequel, Dolphin Tale 2, was released in September 2014 and features the incredible story of Hope, a young resident dolphin of CMA. The mission and potential to change people’s lives differentiates Clearwater Marine Aquarium from any other aquarium in the world.

Information and photos courtesy of Clearwater Marine Aquarium; All photos featured taken acknowledging the following – stranding response conducted under stranding agreement between NMFS and CMA under the authority of the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA).

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Time-Lapse Construction of Clearwater Marine Aquarium’s New Building

Ocean-Friendly Hotel – Winter the Dolphin’s Beach Club

Clearwater Marine Aquarium Offers Free Resources to Enjoy from Home

Grand Opening of the Winter the Dolphin Beach Resort

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