Turning Feel-Good Words Into Action

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The Florida Aquarium’s pioneering efforts to save coral reefs, which are dying at an alarming rate, is attracting a lot of news coverage, and rightly so.

But those reports, such as The Tampa Bay Times’ recent Paul Guzzo story on The Florida Aquarium working with Cuban scientists to create greenhouses for growing coral that can eventually be replanted, represent more than just scientific progress.

The Aquarium’s coral work is part of a broader strategy best expressed in its vision statement to “Protect and Restore the Blue Planet.” Those aren’t intended to be just feel-good words. The vision, developed by Board members and Aquarium staff during a retreat a few years ago, is intended to help direct decisions.

Nobody is forgetting about the business side of the enterprise. Its stated mission to “entertain, educate and inspire stewardship of our natural environment” takes aim at its immediate and pragmatic goals. But the larger vision is for The Florida Aquarium to play an aggressive role in protecting our imperilled oceans.

_DSC5787 copyThe Florida Aquarium’s Vice President of Conservation, Science and Research Margo McKnight said the challenge of that vision was how to translate it into action. That was accomplished by narrowing the focus to areas where the Aquarium staff had expertise and could have significant impact.

This led to the focus on staghorn coral, which has lost 90 percent of its original density. That means more than losing a beautiful underwater attraction for divers, particularly in the Florida Keys. As McKnight says, “Corals are responsible for at least 25 percent of the biodiversity in the ocean, and it may be as high as 40 percent.” Thus, saving the reefs also saves one of the key components of a healthy ocean.

The Aquarium team already has proved its expertise in coral research by becoming the first institution in the world to sexually reproduce staghorn coral in a lab. It is collaborating with other research institutions to reproduce healthy corals and revive their dwindling populations.

But corals are not the Aquarium’s only “Protect and Restore” goal. The staff also decided to make sea turtles and sand tiger sharks restoration priorities.Both are featured in the Aquarium and both are native to Florida waters, but more importantly, both face grave threats — from habitat destruction to overfishing.

shark angry copyMcKnight says of the sand tiger shark, “The shark is an apex predator. You take the apex predator out of the ocean, and you are going to have a catastrophe. The biodiversity will plummet.”

She says the loss of predators allows the population explosion of algae eaters which then leads to the loss of food and habitat and, ultimately, to the decline of other species, including popular gamefish.

Yet there is much that is unknown about sand tiger sharks, including their breeding migration. Though the sand tiger shark is protected in the U.S., its numbers are declining. The Florida Aquarium is working with 14 other aquariums on a tagging program and also trying to get the sharks to reproduce in managed care.

The turtle, McKnight says, is an “umbrella” species; and because it is long lived, it is a great indicator of an ecosystem’s health. The Aquarium team is studying whether improving water quality in Tampa Bay will revive its turtle numbers. Its scientists also are engaged in rescue efforts and routinely nurse sick and injured sea turtles back to health so they can be released where they were found.

_DSC5632 copyOf course, beyond the concentrated efforts on these troubled species, The Florida Aquarium seeks to protect and preserve the Blue Planet by transforming visitors, helping them appreciate and understand the ocean’s wonder and importance.

Looked at in that broader perspective, The Florida Aquarium’s aim to “Protect and Preserve the Blue Planet” is not solely about saving the oceans, but also about saving humanity, and its vision statement could not be more appropriate. social-media-profile-image

 

A Well-Articulated “No” Protects Tampa Bay

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Former Hillsborough County Commissioner Jan Platt was mocked by political opponents as “Commissioner No” because of how often she voted against development proposals that came before the Board.

It was a nickname that ultimately most Hillsborough residents came to see as a badge of honor, as she fought an often-lonely battle against projects that posed a threat to public resources, particularly Tampa Bay.

While she lost many of those development votes, her fight to protect the Bay and preserve Hillsborough’s natural heritage led to many landmark measures that continue to benefit our community, including the Jan K. Platt Environmental Lands Acquisition and Protection Program, or ELAPP, which uses a small amount of property taxes to buy and preserve significant lands. She was an early supporter of The Florida Aquarium and once served on its board, appreciating how the attraction enlightens visitors about the environment while entertaining them.

I recently interviewed Jan for an oral history of ELAPP being conducted for the county and the University of South Florida, and her comments revealed how she evolved into one of Florida’s most effective environmental champions.

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Platt (pictured at age 10 above), who was born in St. Petersburg and grew up in Tampa, stresses stewardship is more important than ever: “When I was born 80 years ago, there were 1.7 million people in Florida. Now we have 20 million. We have almost as many people in Hillsborough as we had in the whole state back then.”

Her interest in conservation grew from her love of her outdoors. “I was blessed that my father was a fisherman, and because he didn’t have any boys, I became his fishing partner.  So, we would fish lakes, streams, bays, rivers, bayous – any body of water.”

“Over the years, it would just kill me to see all the development that was destroying all the wetlands. There was a stream in the Town ‘N Country that was beautiful, crystal clear. I saw otter there. You could look down into the water and see the bass. And do you know when Town ‘N Country was developed that stream was used as a stormwater outfall.”

EgretHer appreciation for what was at stake was further heightened when as the Field Director for the Girl Scouts of America working to develop what would be the Scouts’ first salt water coastal camp.  She learned Pinellas County planned to build a sewer plant nearby with the foul outfall going directly into the Bay. She and supporters managed to get Pinellas to scrap the plan.  Instead, it developed a reclaimed water system that is still being used.

When her beloved younger sister died of cancer, Platt decided to try to make an even greater difference in the community by running for office, winning election to the Tampa City Council and then the Hillsborough Commission, where she was not intimidated by the powerful  developers who dominated local politics. Some of those commissioners who inevitably voted her down in those early years ended up going to prison on corruption charges – they had been bribed by developers.

Losing votes did not discourage her. She was intent on making her point. She kept in mind what her mother had taught her: “…a well-articulated “no” can be as powerful as a “yes.”

And she would go on to achieve great success in advancing environmental enlightenment. ELAPP, which has saved more than 60,000 acres, is a key example.

“I kept seeing lands destroyed, and there was no way to save them other than to block them by zoning. The commission was controlled by developers … so it appeared the only way to save land was to buy it.”

The program, funded by a small portion of property taxes, was adopted overwhelmingly by voters in 1987 and has been renewed twice in referendums by more than 70 percent of the vote. The commission in 2013 would rightly name the program after it greatest advocate.

But ELAPP was only one of Platt’s many environmental accomplishments. She was a relentless defender of Tampa Bay and helped form the Agency for Bay Management. This group brought together all the regulatory agencies, industries and citizen groups involved with the Bay to identify problems and develop solutions. “There was a need to put our heads together. It is easy to criticize; it’s hard to come up with solutions.”

The collaboration led to enormous progress on improving the Bay, and Platt credits local companies for addressing pollution issues.

“I was amazed at how they came around … I don’t think they had any knowledge of how they were hurting the Bay.”

Companies such as Tampa Electric Co. and Mosaic, she says, worked to clean up their operations without great resistance once they realized the threat to the Bay.  She says getting local governments to improve sewer treatment systems was more difficult because of the costs involved. But ultimately they would join the effort. Tampa Bay now is healthier than it has been in decades. Platt, who retired from the commission in 1994, continues to serve on the Agency for Bay Management.

The environment was not Platt’s only concern. She was a relentless proponent of open and ethical government, a leading supporter of public libraries — our interview takes place in the Jan K. Platt Library in South Tampa — and literacy efforts.

She had to finally give up fishing a few years ago, given the side effects of successful cancer treatment. But she is happy her son, daughter-in-law and granddaughter are devoted to her favorite past-time and that “I am the recipient of their catch.”

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And despite the enormous comeback that Tampa Bay has enjoyed, thanks in large part to her efforts, she warns the estuary’s welfare is hardly assured.

“It requires constant vigilance. We need to not only appreciate the Bay but also protect it. You should not be afraid to stand up and speak out because the Bay is too important.” social-media-profile-image

 

Finding Wild Florida at Myakka

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By Joe Guidry, former opinion editor, the Tampa Tribune

Unlike many aquariums that focus on sharks, dolphins and other offshore species, The Florida Aquarium, in telling the Florida water story, illustrates how intrinsically tied those coastal species are to swamps and wetlands far removed from the shore.

It is a fascinating story, one that includes creatures that range from otters to tarpon, and makes one appreciate the remarkable diversity of Florida’s natural riches and understand the importance of maintaining the integrity of our natural systems.

The water story’s lessons were underscored to my wife and me recently during an anniversary visit to Myakka River State Park, one of Florida’s oldest and largest state parks.

Myakka River flows through the nearly 30,000- acre park east of Sarasota on its way to Charlotte Harbor, famed for its spectacular fishing, particularly for tarpon.  The health of that estuary’s fishing, and the tourism industry it supports, is dependent on Myakka and its other freshwater sources, including the Peace River.

Pollute, dam or divert those freshwater sources and Charlotte Harbor’s water quality and marine life will inevitably decline, as will the enterprises that depend upon them.

Fortunately, visionary leaders took steps to preserve much of the Myakka wilderness.  Today it remains a remarkable place to see native flora and fauna, with the river widening into two lakes – the Upper and Lower Myakka – within the park, and the terrain including marshes, swamps, hammocks and pinelands.

Wildlife is abundant and can be seen simply driving along the park’s seven-mile main road. Those who drive slowly in the early morning and late afternoon are almost certain to see deer browsing. We also saw wild turkeys, including a long-beard gobbler. Surprisingly, we did not see the wild hogs that ran amok when we first started visiting Myakka decades ago, an indication that traps located through the park are having an impact on the destructive nonnative species, first introduced to the state by Spanish explorers.

Still, the telltale tractor-like rootings of the hogs are visible in much of the park. With mature female hogs giving birth at least twice a year to six or more piglets, park officials know there is no eliminating them.  They just hope to keep their numbers, and threat to native flora and fauna, manageable.

Myakka 104.jpgBig gators are the star attraction, and when drivers pull over to look at these large creatures that typically sun themselves where the Myakka River flows under the Park Road Bridge, it can look like a bear sighting traffic jam at Yellowstone National Park.

The gators also can be viewed on cruises of Upper Myakka Lake offered at the park’s concession area. The tours take place on impressively large (up to 75 passengers) and exceedingly slow (5 mph) airboats, but the captain’s narration is funny and informed, and one sees many of the estimated 500 to 1,000 gators in the park, along with lots of shorebirds. You learn about alligator natural history, including that they open their mouths while laying along the bank, not as a defense display but to regulate heat. They also can live more than 30 years in the wild and much longer in zoological facilities.

 

Myakka - Lenora 071 copy.jpgBird watching is terrific throughout Myakka park, particularly on the wooden “birdwalk” that goes out into the upper lake. One evening we saw white pelicans, three eagles, ospreys, avocets and countless shorebirds and ducks. The limpkin, rare in most of Florida, can be spotted along the river, lakes and marshes. Its eerie, jungle animal-like howl is common, as are the “Who Cooks for You” call of the barred owl and the screech of the red-shouldered hawk.

A neat park feature is the Canopy Walkway, where one can walk among the tree tops on a suspension bridge 25 feet above the ground and then climb the stairs of a 74-foot tower that allows a panoramic view of the surrounding landscape.

There are camping facilities for trailers and tents and, if one is fortunate enough to get reservations, five cabins. The cabins, built in the 1930s, are rustic but comfortable, each with shower, kitchen and a large fireplace in its main room, which has two beds. There is electricity, but blessedly, no television, and don’t expect Wi-Fi or a phone signal.

The park has nearly 40 miles of trails and several primative campsites. The trails will lead you through a diversity of ecosystems. I went on a fantastic tromp to the Lower Myakka Lake, a section of the park where cars are not allowed and hikers must obtain a permit.

Led by a member of the Friends of Myakka, whose members work to preserve the park and educate visitors about its treasures, we hiked several miles through pine and palmetto forest and then hardwood hammock to Deep Hole, a sinkhole in the Lower Myakka Lake that retains water during the most severe drought. It is crammed with husky gators – both in the water and on the banks –  and surrounded by vultures. What a memorable sight. Most of the gators are lounging but occasionally one in the water would suddenly crunch a fish – apparently, the lake is full of tilapia, an exotic. With gators being mostly nocturnal feeders, one can only imagine what the place must sound and look like at night.

Our group also sees red-headed woodpeckers, white pelicans, eagles, deer and many other creatures, as well as coyote and bobcat sign.

The state park is part of what is called the  Myakka Island, the remaining native habitat in the 550-square-mile watershed.  Development pressure remains acute, and park advocates hope to preserve enough to ensure a reasonably functioning ecosystem. But that is a complicated task.

Using the example of the bobcat, former Myakka naturalist B.J. Benshoff aptly puts the conservation challenge in perspective in her wonderful book, “Myakka,” (published by Pineapple Press and available at the park gift shop.)

“The home range of a male bobcat averages 7.5 square miles. About 4.5 square miles are required for a female. Bobcats require a mix of habitats, such as hardwood swamps, pine flatwoods and marshes, so the kind of space is as important as the amount of space.”

“The quality of habitat is also an important consideration. It is estimated that a one-year-old female bobcat and her three kittens will consume at least 3,800 cotton rats, 3,200 cotton mice and 700 cottontail rabbits by the end of the mother’s second year. All this prey must be within the home range that she shares with an adult male during mating season and other predators (e.g. birds, snakes, foxes, coyotes) using her range.”

Yet every new development eliminates habitat, introduces exotic species, including dogs and cats, that can threaten native species and, perhaps most critical of all, makes it more difficult to conduct the burns that ensure the land remains productive for wildlife.

Myakka - Lenora 020.jpgOne quickly realizes the wisdom of state voters who in 2014 overwhelmingly endorsed Amendment One, the referendum requiring lawmakers to invest more in conservation. Florida lawmakers, alas, have been reluctant to comply with voters’ directive.

Yet one doesn’t leave the park preoccupied with politics. Rather, Myakka State Park, with its diverse array of ecosystems and stunning wildlife numbers, leaves you with a profound sense of wonder at the beauty and complexity of wild Florida, an appreciation for the wilderness that remains, and, after observing the joy of visitors to the park, encouragement that Floridians will not squander their priceless natural gifts.social-media-profile-image

 

A Restored Tampa Bay—The Positive Side of the Regulatory Equation

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By Joe Guidry, former opinion editor, The Tampa Tribune

To hear some elected officials tell it, regulations are the devil’s spawn – they destroy efficiency, increase prices and kill jobs. In fact, during the political season, the word regulations is almost always preceded by “job-killing.”

There is some truth to the claim that bureaucratic red tape and command-and-control policies hamstring enterprise and deter innovation, the reason officials should take care when adopting new rules.

But the idea that environmental regulations aren’t necessary is absurdity. Indeed, prudent regulations not only protect the environment and public health but also benefit the economy, something our leaders in Washington should keep in mind as they seek to reform the regulatory system.

A 2013 study by the Office of Management and Budget a few years ago found that U.S. Environmental Protection Agency rules over the past decade had an estimated cost to the economy of $45 billion but had achieved $640 billion in benefits. Such broad calculations from a White House office can hardly be treated as gospel. But there is plenty of local evidence of the value of environmental protections.

Tampa Bay is a telling example, as I pointed out when I worked at The Tampa Tribune Editorial Department. Prior to the adoption of strong state, local and federal clean water regulations, Tampa Bay was a polluted soup of runoff and discharges. Regulations changed that. Among those that helped save Tampa Bay was the Clean Water Act of 1972 that, among other things, required municipalities to clean wastewater discharges.

No one can argue that those regulations haven’t been beneficial. Forty years ago, pollution and development had caused Tampa Bay to lose 81 percent of its original 76,500 acres of seagrasses and 44 percent of its original 25,000 acres of mangrove and salt marshes.

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Now, thanks to those reviled regulations, Tampa Bay is healthier than it has been in generations.  The Bay’s seagrasses have grown by more than 9,000 acres since the 1990s, and scientists say Tampa Bay is as clean as it was in the 1950s, when the region’s population was less than 500,000. Now it has close to 3 million residents.

Today, visitors to The Florida Aquarium get a vivid view of Tampa Bay’s comeback on Tampa Bay cruises where they can see porpoises, manatee and other marine life. The Bay’s revival is a direct result of pollution restrictions.

The seagrasses that were being choked out by cloudy water that prevent growth now receive enough light to grow. That means more habitat for marine life, including popular sportfish such as snook, trout and redfish. Healthy grass beds filter water while also deterring erosion.

Those allegedly “job-killing” regulations not only cleaned up Tampa Bay but made the area a more appealing place to live, work and visit.

Does anyone think that Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik would be pursuing a $1 billion development project on Tampa’s downtown waterfront if Tampa Bay had remained a putrid mess? Or that all the investment and growth the region has enjoyed would have occurred if elected leaders had taken a hands-off attitude toward the polluters?

Does anyone think Tampa would have landed the recent College Football Playoff National Championship that brought so many visitors to the region, not to mention four Super Bowls and numerous other sports championships, had it continued to allow Tampa Bay to become a cesspool?

There is no question that regulators sometimes go too far and impose laws without adequately weighing the cost-benefits. They also sometimes fail to consider how market forces could advance their goals. Still, the positive side of the regulatory equation is overlooked far too often during political debates. Restrictions, without question, should be based on sound science and common sense.

No doubt, maintaining clean water and air involves costs and sometimes may indeed eliminate certain jobs.  But the reckless destruction of our wonderful resources is, in the long run, a far greater threat to Florida’s economic prospects.social-media-profile-image

The Singular Brand of Thom Stork

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By Joe Guidry, former opinion editor, The Tampa Tribune

The story goes that Thom Stork’s first meeting with The Florida Aquarium staff after he was named CEO of the struggling attraction in 2002 was tense. The staff, who took their environmental-education mission seriously, worried the marketing whiz who’d spent most of his career generating buzz for the Anheuser-Busch Theme Parks wouldn’t appreciate their efforts.

So, Thom began the meeting by asking, “All right, where are we going to put the roller coaster?” That was Thom, quick-witted, attuned to others and with a talent for saying the right thing at the right time. The joke, acknowledging their concerns, dispelled the tension.

Thom died of cancer last month after leading the Aquarium to unprecedented success during his 14 years as president and CEO. It is a painful loss to those who knew him. He was a man who knew how to get things done, but who also had a talent for making life more enjoyable — more fun — for those around him.

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As the staff quickly learned, Thom was deeply committed to educating visitors about Florida’s marine resources, but he also sought to ensure that families enjoyed their visit and wanted to return. He spent time observing and conversing with visitors to determine what they wanted.  These Stork-focused inquiries resulted in the addition of play areas, where parents could let their kids run loose, as well as interactive exhibits, and restaurants.

The marketing master also started eco-cruises around Tampa Bay and held special events that attracted crowds to The Florida Aquarium. He put up a fish aquarium at Tampa International Airport and stingray pools at the Tampa Bay Rays’ Tropicana Field and just last autumn at Tampa Electric’s Manatee Viewing Center.

Attendance steadily rose to record highs of more than 800,000, and the Aquarium consistently operated in the black under his leadership.

But as Thom attracted more visitors, he also maintained focus on its education mission, increasing classroom space and its offerings to students. Last November, the Aquarium celebrated its 1.5 millionth student, a milestone that delighted him.

Marketing executives are sometimes characterized – or derided –  as being all   “personality” and Thom, to be sure, had buckets of personality (not to mention a touch of flamboyance, with his trademark bowties and snazzy suits, usually accompanied by suspenders). He never met a stranger, and whether before a group of disadvantaged schoolchildren or corporate executives, he inevitably put others at ease.

But beyond his remarkable personal skills, he was a visionary, one whose keen sense of how to please visitors was matched by a resolve that The Florida Aquarium play a key role in “Protecting and Restoring the Blue Planet,” which became the Aquarium’s motto.

Thanks to the Aquarium’s increasing success, it could devote more effort to its environmental research and conservation efforts. Thom was particularly proud of the Aquarium’s pioneering research on the annual staghorn coral spawn, which could help reverse the massive dying off of coral reefs that is taking place around the world.

And typically, Thom managed to establish a research partnership with Cuba’s National Aquarium without stirring up any political whirlpools. He kept the focus on what was important: two countries working together to save imperiled resources.

Thom was involved in numerous civic groups, believing he had an obligation to improve the community. He was not just a name on a board list. He invested time and sweat into his volunteer work because he deeply cared about making Tampa — and Florida —  better places to live.

As his board, staff and people throughout the community – including myself – will testify, Thom had a gift for friendship.  If he was your friend, he was going to go to bat for you whatever the circumstances. The Tampa Bay Times’ columnist Dan Ruth recently wrote a wonderful piece about how when he was laid off by The Tampa Tribune, Stork promptly sought to help him “rebrand” himself and find another job.  All this even though the sometimes-acerbic Ruth was not always kind to the Aquarium.

Stork was similarly kind to me when The Tampa Tribune went out of business last May. He shrugged off my thanks for his efforts on my behalf saying, “This is what longtime friends do.” I ultimately decided not to pursue another full-time job, but I know Thom later supported the creation of this Water Stories blog.

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I don’t know a more devoted husband, father or grandfather. The pictures in his office were devoted to his family, not his career.  His friends also knew him to be man of quiet faith, who appreciated the power of prayer.

Thom never got to enjoy the retirement that he planned for 2017. He deserved many more good years with his beloved wife, Donna, and his family and friends.

The board likely will find a worthy successor who will build on the success Stork brought to The Florida Aquarium. But if the CEO position can be filled, there will be no replacing Thom Stork’s singular brand of leadership, generosity and good will. social-media-profile-image

A Life Lesson from The Florida Aquarium

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By Joe Guidry, former opinion editor, The Tampa Tribune.

I have been a fan of The Florida Aquarium since its supporters came to The Tampa Tribune Editorial Board in the early 1990s to unveil their vision of an attraction that would entertain and educate visitors while generating revenue for environmental conservation and research.

But, I also must admit the Aquarium was the source of one of the dumber things I wrote in my 30-some years as an editorial writer.

Backers sought taxpayer support for the construction bonds, and the arguments for the investment seemed strong: Every aquarium in the nation was successful and the independent consultants’ report projecting nearly 2 million visitors per  year had the project safely paying its operating costs and $84 million debt service.

I wrote something silly, like the likelihood of “the public being at risk was about the same as a great white shark attacking the Tampa Bay Convention Center.”

Actually, the Aquarium’s challenge was far more formidable than I imagined. It was the lone attraction in a seedy Channel District that offered little. Attendance in the early years was below expectations and the venture quickly needed a bailout and many readers ridiculed my stance.

It provided an embarrassing lesson about blissfully accepting consultants’ rosy assurances.  But the bigger lesson I learned was about staying the course despite setbacks. The Aquarium, in the long run, provided a critical example of  the importance of investing in the future and staying the course with vision and resolve.

Though its lonely years in the Channel District were frustrating, the aquarium soon ignited investment throughout the neighborhood.

Former Tampa Bay Lightning Governor, David LeFevre, once told me The Tampa Bay Lightning’s decision to locate downtown was a direct result of the community’s decision to build the  Aquarium.

Now the Aquarium is part of a thriving district that offers a sports arena, condo towers, a cruise ship terminal, restaurants, bars and retail shops. Soon, the University of South Florida will develop its new medical school nearby, part of a $1 billion development plan by Lightning owner, Jeff Vinik, aimed at attracting corporations, residents and retail to the neighborhood.

None of this would be happening were it not for The Florida Aquarium. It is highly unlikely, for that matter, that Tampa would have hosted the Republican National Convention,   Women’s Final Four, Frozen Four and countless other major events if the Aquarium had not been built.

Yet the Aquarium is much more than an economic catalyst.

It has become a major attraction in its own right; one that is helping Tampa to attract more visitors who stay here a night or more, rather than briefly stopping by on the way to Disney World or the beach.

With education and conservation as its top priority, the Aquarium was created to tell the Florida water story.  It instructed visitors about the state’s ecosystem; with alligators, otters, tarpons, sharks and many other lively creatures.

Still, the Aquarium staff, particularly under innovative Thom Stork, the late Aquarium president and CEO, realized the need to offer ever more fun and interactive experiences to keep families coming back.

But there has been no retreat from the education-conservation mission. Indeed, the aquarium’s vision is “To protect and restore our Blue Planet.” There is no mention of increasing attendance or revenues.

The Aquarium’s increasing financial success is allowing it to focus more than ever on research—just as those original advocates envisioned.

Its Center for Conservation is on the forefront of research efforts to save coral reefs, sea turtles and coastal sharks. It works with local restaurants to promote sustainable seafood. Ecotour cruises on Tampa Bay allow people to thrill at the sight of porpoises and other wildlife, while also learning about the Bay’s natural history.

The Aquarium is partnering with Tampa Electric to develop a research, recreation and education center near Big Bend Power Plant in Apollo Beach. They also are collaborating with Florida Wildlife Conservation Commission on operating a fish hatchery at the site.

All this has taken time. I was clueless in the editorial decades ago about the financial riptides the Aquarium would confront.

But The Florida Aquarium was able to survive it all and today—thanks to the enterprise and commitment of its Board and staff—is enhancing the economy and the environment. Turning the tide on the health of our blue planet, particularly here in Tampa Bay and the Gulf, will require more grit, more commitment and more support from our community.  In the Water Stories that follow, it will be my great honor to share examples of our challenges and successes. social-media-profile-image