Clearwater Marine Aquarium’s 50th Anniversary

This year proudly marks Clearwater Marine Aquarium’s 50th Anniversary! For 50 years, CMA has helped to make a difference in our local marine ecosystems and the conservation and research efforts of species all over the world. Let’s look back on our history and how CMA became what it is today.

A Walk Through History

CMA before


The story began in 1972 with a group of volunteers passionate about marine life who wanted to help educate the local community. With help from the city of Clearwater, marine biologist Dennis Kellenberger, the local community, and Sunset Sam, Clearwater Marine Science Center set the foundation for the Clearwater Marine Aquarium we all know today.

After opening with a fish exhibit to now offering over 15 animal habitat and guest experience areas, CMA continues to grow. While they still utilize the water treatment plant donated to us in 1978, they have expanded the facility to provide care for more rescued animals in need. Your support throughout the years has made this expansion possible and allows them to continue their mission; to preserve the environment while inspiring the human spirit through leadership in the rescue, rehabilitation, and release of marine life; environmental education; research; and conservation.

Sunset Sam, the first dolphin to survive a stranding in Florida, became the first well-known rescued resident bottlenose dolphin in 1984. While assisting in rescues and rehabilitation of marine life and providing a forever home for those who need more care, their walls have housed many inspiring stores. CMA had no idea that one incredible dolphin’s rescue story would impact the world 20 years later.

Winter became a resident of CMA in 2006 and forever changed the impact CMA has had on marine conservation. This year also reflected the first time Winter’s story inspired children and wounded soldiers, in essence, inspiring humanity. Her first prosthetic tail consultation occurred the following year, which inspired Winter’s first book Winter’s Tail: How One Little Dolphin Learned to Swim Again to be published in 2010.

Hope was rescued on December 11, 2010, and the rest is history. Dolphin Tale and Dolphin Tale 2 brought Winter and Hope’s stories to the big screen and to people around the world. Their stories of resilience continue to inspire people worldwide and educate people on the importance of ocean and marine life conservation.

While the world lost Winter last year, her story changed CMA and the world forever. CMA is the proud home to a variety of rescued marine animals needing 24/7 care, contributes to the crucial manatee and North Atlantic right whale research, and helps conserve the local sea turtle populations through nest monitoring every year. They cannot wait to see what we accomplish in the next 50 years, and we thank all of our visitors for their support.



It’s the Summer of Peace, Love, and Dolphins at Clearwater Marine Aquarium! Families are invited to celebrate the facts, fiction, and fun of these enchanting marine mammals. Dolphintopia is a multi-faceted immersive celebration that explores, not only the fascinating science of dolphins but their intimate connection with humans throughout history. This celebration will include unique dolphin art displays and activities, interactive shows exploring the intangible connection with dolphins, and colorful photo opportunities for the whole family. The elements of this saltwater celebration will ebb and flow like the tides, offering return guests different experiences throughout the season.

Summer glow


As the evening begins, Clearwater Marine Aquarium transforms into a summer celebration every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday from May 27 through July 30. Enjoy live entertainment, family-friendly activities, festive food, drinks, and the sparkling views of the water. Experience a different atmosphere throughout the aquarium and watch as the rescued marine animals interact in new ways. It’s the summer of peace, love, and dolphins. Celebrate during Summer Glow evening hours at CMA!