Come be inspired and learn about the ongoing work of rescue, rehabilitation, and release at Clearwater Marine Aquarium. The marine life rescue center is home to Marine Life featured, in the Dolphin Tale movies, filmed on location in Clearwater, Florida — just 90 minutes from Orlando. Clearwater Marine Aquarium staff and volunteers work each day to rescue marine life and provide the most advanced and effective care to maximize the opportunity to return sick or injured animals to their homes. On the 16th anniversary of her rescue, CMA will honor Winter the Dolphin’s legacy.
“When a loved one passes there is a very real fear that we will forget the sound of their voice or even the way they walked. For those of us who loved Winter, I’m proud to announce that Winter will live on in the physical world as well as the digital world so her signature tweet, demeanor, and personality can never be forgotten,” said President Dr. James “Buddy” Powell.
Virtual reality experiences at CMA
“We have the technology available to us where guests will be able to virtually swim with Winter and experience her personality as if she were still alive,” said Powell. Throughout her life, CMA captured 360-degree videos of Winter and countless 2-D images which will be produced into a virtual reality immersive experience that guests will be able to visit onsite in CMA’s Virtual Reality theater starting January 2022.
On-going Memorial at CMA
Winter inspired so many people across the globe. CMA encourages the community and fans of CMA to bring notes, cards, and share their stories about how she impacted their lives, or those of a loved one, to a memorial onsite beginning December 26 next to the old Winter Zone where she spent most of her life.
Winter’s Legacy Endowment
“Through a collaboration with the Community Foundation of Tampa Bay, this permanent endowment establishes a long-term sustainability strategy for the future of our organization,” said Powell. Beginning January 2022, gifts to Winter’s Endowment are invested, and a portion of the annual income for the investment is used to address any immediate needs. The remaining funds are reinvested to safeguard indefinite support of CMA.
A song made just for Winter the Dolphin. “In Our Hearts, You’ll Be.” – Red Marker 28. This song is available on iTunes, Apple Music, and Spotify. A percentage of the song proceeds go toward supporting Clearwater Marine Aquarium’s mission. Lyrics by Stephen Page. Music by Rudiger. ©2021.
Returning her to the sea
After her necropsy, Winter’s body was cremated. In a final tribute to her, CMA staff will release her ashes into the Gulf of Mexico this January. “Returning Winter to her natural home is a poetic ending to her incredible 16-year journey and we couldn’t think of a better way to lay her spirit to rest,” said Powell.
Winter the Dolphin inspired millions across the world with her message of perseverance. Her story, as told in Dolphin Tale and Dolphin Tale 2 resulted in a $2 billion impact to Pinellas County from 2012 to 2015 when the rest of the country was coming out of a recession. In 2020, Clearwater Marine Aquarium opened an $80 million expansion including a brand new 1.5 million-gallon water dolphin habitat providing CMA with the ability to care for more rescued and non-releasable dolphins.
CMA to be the forever home to a new rescued male dolphin
“We are overjoyed to welcome a new family member to CMA,” said Kelly Martin, VP of Zoological Care. “Coming off the heels of Winter’s rescue anniversary on December 11th and her death in November, this new dolphin is a burst of new life and energy that our team is so excited to embrace. December truly is our magical month at CMA.” Resident bottlenose dolphins Hope, Nicholas, and rough-toothed dolphin Rudolph were all rescued during the month of December.
Named “Apollo” after his place of rescue on Florida’s Space Coast, the 2-year old dolphin will reside at CMA’s Ruth & J.O. Stone Dolphin Complex where Winter the Dolphin once lived with resident dolphins Hope, PJ, Nicholas, and Hemingway.
On May 15, 2021, Apollo was stranded on Playalinda Beach, Fla., approximately 20 miles from where Winter the Dolphin was rescued in 2005. Unlike Winter, who was found entangled in a crab trap swimming in Mosquito Lagoon, Apollo was discovered on the beach. Rescuers observed that Apollo was thin and had visible parasites on his dorsal fin, pectoral fins, and fluke. Given his condition and in consultation with NOAA Fisheries, a decision was made to transport the dolphin for rehabilitation at SeaWorld Orlando.
“After nearly seven months of intensive treatment and rehabilitation, Apollo’s health improved and we had every hope that he would make a complete recovery and be able to return to his natural environment,” said Jon Peterson, VP of Zoological Operations at SeaWorld Orlando and Head of the SeaWorld Orlando Rescue Team. “Unfortunately a hearing test performed by the National Marine Mammal Foundation (NMMF) revealed that Apollo has atypical hearing loss compromising his ability to echolocate. Due to his hearing loss, NMFS determined Apollo was not a candidate for release.”
“Due to their history for providing excellent care for rescued marine life and especially dolphins who exhibit hearing loss, Clearwater Marine Aquarium was selected as Apollo’s permanent home,” said Dr. Erin Fougères, NOAA Fisheries Marine Mammal Stranding Program Administrator.
“It is because of the wonderful teamwork, respect, and professionalism executed by each organization that took part in Apollo’s rescue that he is able to take advantage of this second chance at life,” said Dr. James “Buddy” Powell, Executive Director. “As a working marine life hospital we are committed to providing the best care possible to each and every animal that needs our help, and we are honored that National Marine Fisheries chose us as the best home possible for Apollo. Please join us in welcoming him to our family!”
Apollo is a little over 6-feet long and weighs approximately 200 lbs. Guests are able to visit him in his new home at Clearwater Marine Aquarium’s Ruth & J.O. Stone Dolphin Complex.
So be inspired at Clearwater Marine Aquarium today and remember Winter’s legacy in their rescue and rehabilitation efforts.