CLEARWATER, Fla. — As Clearwater Marine Aquarium gets set to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the film "Dolphin Tale," the tank Winter became famous in is about to serve a new purpose.
“The awareness of Winter went through 43 countries after the movies were filmed so this is just a legacy that’s going to be carried on but for another species that Is in desperate need of help right now," said CMA CEO Frank Dame.
That species is the manatee.
US Fish and Wildlife services report a record 866 died in Florida this year. Many on the east coast were caused by an algae bloom that decimated the manatee’s food supply.
“It’s a very dire situation. And what’s particularly disturbing is we are not done because of those seagrasses over there on the east coast. They are not able to recover in a year," said CMA President Dr. James "Buddy" Powell.
CMA has worked to help rehabilitate dolphins, sea turtles, and river otters. But now they will add an exhibit for manatees.
There will be a hospital behind the scenes. But lots for visitors to see, too.
This is in addition to the rehab center opening at the aquarium’s Fred Howard Park location.
“We are stewards of their survival and a rehabilitation site like this here in Clearwater takes a lot of support. We are getting ready to make a major investment in terms of trying to do this," said Powell.
Officials estimate it could be nearly $10 million to renovate Winter’s old tank into a new home for manatees on the mend.