The Florida Aquarium is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization whose mission is to entertain, educate and inspire stewardship about our natural environment.
The Florida Aquarium began as the Clearwater Marine Science Center (CMSC), a private non-profit educational organization located on Clearwater Beach, Florida incorporated in 1977.
In late 1985, consultants from New England, National and Monterey Bay aquariums advised the CMSC Board on expansion potential. The consulting team emphasized the need for a world-class facility if the project was to compete successfully as a nationally recognized educational facility in the Florida marketplace, and thus, become financially viable.
The Florida Aquarium, Inc. was incorporated on December 12, 1986 as a separate not-for-profit organization. The newly organized Florida Aquarium Board of Directors formally committed to building a public aquarium comparable to the finest in the nation, and contracted Joseph A. Wetzel Associates of Boston to provide conceptual design of exhibits for a new facility.
Briefings with local and state officials were conducted and broad-based support for the project was garnered from the local Clearwater Chamber of Commerce to then Governor Bob Graham.
Garrison Seaport Center emerged as a major redevelopment of downtown Tampa’s waterfront. On August 15, 1992, The Tampa City Council voted to accept the financing package and site work began within the next few months for the new Aquarium. During the next three years of construction, educational outreach programs were held throughout the community to create awareness for the project.
On March 31, 1995, The Florida Aquarium opened its doors, serving one million residents of and visitors to the Tampa Bay area and bringing a positive economic impact of $60-million to the community in its first year of operation.
he Florida Aquarium actively participates in and promotes conservation of the natural environment as part of our mission of conservation. Our efforts combine scientific research and animal rescue, rehabilitation and release programs that give needed support to animals in distress or imminent danger, and ecosystems that are faced with both natural and man-made threats. Our efforts focus on many areas of conservation which includes the propagation of corals in Florida's Keys, rescuing endangered sea turtles and threatened river otters, assisting with dolphin and manatee rescues, assessing stress levels in sharks, documenting underwater cultural assets (a.k.a. shipwrecks) and raising awareness of sustainable seafood issues.
Our Center for Conservation is a lead institute that utlizes the expertise of our talented and knowledgeable staff and volunteers who address the challenges that face Florida aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems.
Our Center continuosly contributes to field studies assessing and advancing the health of Florida ecosystems, like coral reefs, with a major component of the Center aiming to educate the public on Florida's critical conservation issues through exhibits and programs at the Aquarium.
Through a unique cooperative partnership with the University of Florida the Center for Conservation is working to solve key conservation issues focusing on coral reefs, sea turtles, sharks and the ecosystems they depend upon.