Vice President of CMA Speaks to the Rotary Club of Clearwater
Photo by Dennis Eckel
Frank Dame, Executive Vice President and C.E.O. of the Clearwater Marine Aquarium (CMA), recently presented an update about the aquarium to members and guests at a Wednesday noon meeting of the Rotary Club of Clearwater at the Belleair Country Club. Rotarian Andy Burwell, Prudential Real Estate Consultant, introduced Dame as a major participant in helping the CMA plan a new look, in it's efforts to enlarge, and prepare for an expected increase in visitors and tourists once the movie, "Dolphin's Tale," is produced and released.
Dame said that the recent oil spill did not put one drop of oil on our beaches, but tourists and previously planned business conventions, cancelled and stayed away in droves. Aquarium attendance dropped from a 30% growth before the spill to 2% after the spill. The income was reduced, but rehabilitation of oil-affected Sea Turtles increased. Turtles develop tumors that the CMA removes with Laser surgery. The turtles are rehabilitated, then released back into the Gulf, healthier and stronger. 106 turtles were rescued during the winter cold spell, weak and near death. They were re-nourished, re-hydrated, and eventually released back to the Gulf waters. The CMA is the second largest Turtle Rehabilitation center in Florida.
Dame said that The Clearwater Marine Aquarium has an underwater viewing tank, classrooms to provide information on marine life, and provides a boat for both rescue of injured marine life, and then release of those that will be able to survive on their own. Holding tanks are also available for the dolphins and for turtles. Visitors can also watch the antics of performing Otters.
The Aquarium is currently closed as preparations are being made to produce the movie, "Dolphin's Tale." The movie is expected to increase tourism to the area, so growth of the CMA is being planned. Winter the Dolphin is being prepared to accept all the cameras, new people, and props. A robotic dolphin will be used for some scenes. Panama is a pool friend of Winter, whom the trainers thought was slow to learn. The latest discovery is that Panama is deaf. Now the aquarium has two dolphins with handicaps. One has an artificial tail, the other cannot hear. Panama learns by watching hand motions that are used while Winter performs. Winter is known worldwide for her need and successful use of a prosthetic tail. This has brought many children to visit Winter. Dame said that Winter's eyes make a connection with the children visitors. Her eyes make the individual child feel there is a personal relationship with Winter.
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