1. Clearwater

Clearwater Marine Aquarium partners up for manatee, turtle and whale research

The aquarium will join forces with the Sea to Shore Alliance
Published Feb. 12

CLEARWATER — After five years of planning to expand its area of research, the Clearwater Marine Aquarium announced a new partnership Tuesday with a renowned research and animal conservation group to focus on helping manatees, sea turtles and North Atlantic right whales.

The aquarium is merging with the Sea to Shore Alliance, which over the past 10 years has made key advancements in manatee research and helped reduce ship speeds along the coast, which lowers the risk of the endangered right whales being struck and killed. The new division will be called the Clearwater Marine Aquarium Research Institute and will be under the direction of Sea to Shore's executive director, James "Buddy" Powell. The 14 Sea to Shore Alliance staff members will begin working under the new partnership effective immediately.

The aquarium has done research projects here and there but CEO David Yates felt like the organization had been lacking in that portion of its mission.

The move to partner will make the aquarium one of the few across the country to feature such advanced researchers, conservationists and rehabilitation efforts side-by-side, Powell said.

The scientist, with more than 50 years of field experience, said the organizations' missions are extremely compatible but lack certain capacities without one another.

"The research we do is aimed toward trying to better protect and conserve threatened marine species and their habitat," Powell said. "And then when you look at Clearwater and what they have been involved with over the years is the rescue and rehabilitation of individuals of species. So, they've been really focusing on the individual aspect and we're more focused on the population side of things."

The aquarium CMA found international fame with the 2011 Dolphin Tale movie about Winter, a dolphin given a prosthetic tail at the aquarium after being entangled in a crab trap near Cape Canaveral. Attendance shot up four-fold from 2010 numbers to 740,000 in 2012. The aquarium also was featured in Dolphin Tale's sequel, Dolphin Tale 2. The national stage the aquarium presents will allow Powell's research to be distributed more widely. Meanwhile, Powell will help the aquarium become more known for its research worldwide. Currently, Powell and his team work across the U.S., Belize and Cuba.

Yates called the partnership ''budget neutral,'' other than some expenses such as legal fees.

''Sea to Shores comes with its own funding,'' he said. "Any future expansion of the work may be funded by CMA and our resources.''

The aquarium is also undergoing a $71 million expansion to expand parking, guest space and add five dolphin pools. Staff will have room to treat about 45 rehabilitation cases at once, double what it can do now. With larger pools, they could take in nine more resident dolphins, 25 more turtles and create habitat for three manatees, which it didn't house before.The aquarium is also planning a private medical facility in Fred Howard Park in Tarpon Springs to treat injured and stranded animals before releasing them.

"We want to do more about protecting marine life and we want to solve big problems," Yates said. "So this is a match made in heaven."

Contact McKenna Oxenden at Follow @mack_oxenden


  1. Check for the latest breaking news and updates.
    Charges in the incident are pending, the Florida Highway Patrol said.
  2. Check for the latest breaking news and updates. JAMAL THALJI  |  Tampa Bay Times
    John Clark used a shotgun to kill his mother and another man. Then he returned to the crime scene with a shotgun, according to the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office.
  3. Joshua Russell, 26, faces a charge of aggravated manslaughter, according to deputies. Pinellas County Sheriff's Office
    A dose of kratom caused the caretaker to fall asleep for hours inside a hot minivan with the disabled man in the back seat, investigators said.
  4. Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri spoke Friday about a child protection investigator who was arrested on charges of falsifying reports. JOSH SOLOMON  |  Josh Solomon
    It’s the second time in two years a Pinellas child protection investigator has faced falsification charges.
  5. Former Tarpon Springs police Officer Steven Bergren, seen in this 2012 picture with his K-9 partner Dobies Jr. Bergren resigned before he could be fired by the Tarpon Springs Police Department for threatening a mass shooting. Bergren said he was joking. Tampa Bay Times
    The detective said he was joking. The Tarpon Springs Police Department said it would have fired him had he not resigned.
  6. Plans for the Pinellas Suncoast Fire and Rescue District Board of Commissioners referendum March 12 call for a $100 increase in the annual assessment for single-family units. Tom Germond
    The winner will fill the seat of a board member who moved.
  7. The Walmart supercenter at 990 Missouri Ave. faced fines in December for these storage containers in the parking lot. City officials are debating whether to make a short-term arrangement with the city two’s Largo stores this year so they can store their holiday inventory. City of Largo
    In the end, city commissioners say yes, with some reservations.
  8. More construction is on the way to St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport, thanks to $19.75 million in Federal Aviation Administration grants to rehabilitate the airport’s runway. (Times file photo)
    The work is expected to be complete by spring 2021.
  9. Former nursing assistant Falo Kane, 32, of Clearwater, faces seven counts of sexual battery of a physically helpless person. Clearwater police are now looking for more potential victims at other health care facilities. [CLEARWATER POLICE DEPARTMENT]  |  Clearwater Police Department
    Falo Kane is accused of assaulting six patients at four facilities since 2016. Clearwater detectives want to know if there are other victims.
  10. Clearwater Mayor George Cretekos listens to a speaker share an opinion about a city matter during a city council meeting at Clearwater City Hall in Clearwater, Fla. on Thursday, April 20, 2017.  On Thursday, the Clearwater City Council rejected the mayor's resolution urging lawmakers to ban assault weapons.  [Times files] TIMES FILES  |  Tampa Bay Times
    However, the city did pass a resolution calling for more modest gun control measures.