Atlanta, GA (April 21, 2009) –
Georgia Aquarium’s Dolphin Conservation Field Station (GAI-DCFS) opened today in Marineland, FL just outside St. Augustine, FL, with a ceremonial ribbon cutting by Georgia Aquarium benefactor, Bernie Marcus and Marineland of Florida owner, Jim Jacoby.
The conservation field station includes research and veterinary facilities, quarantine pools for rehabilitating rescued animals, both land and water animal rescue vehicles and housing for researchers and staff. The team will conduct research, and it will also fill a need for rescue and rehabilitation of stranded animals in Georgia and northeast Florida. After a successful rescue and rehabilitation, animals deemed releasable by National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) will be reintroduced into their respective habitats. Animals deemed by NMFS to be unfit for release will be provided a home selected by NMFS.
“We welcome Georgia Aquarium’s Dolphin Conservation Field Station to the Southeast U.S. Marine Mammal Stranding Network," said Blair Mase-Guthrie, NOAA Fisheries' southeast stranding network coordinator. "We look forward to collaborating with their experts on marine mammal strandings and appreciate their willingness to participate in the program.
The partnership between the Georgia Aquarium and Marineland to open GAI-DCFS was announced May 6, 2008, at the same time the Aquarium announced its $110 million dolphin expansion plans in Atlanta, which is set to open in November 2010.
“From the very beginning, the Georgia Aquarium has sought to be a world class research institution,” said Marcus. “We are not only making a difference by educating the millions of visitors that come to the Georgia Aquarium each year, but we are expanding our commitment to conduct research and conservation in the field.”
The Georgia Aquarium has pledged more than $3 million to the care and study of dolphins through the initial contribution to build the facility of $1.5 million and the annual operating costs of $300,000 for the Center. Marineland of Florida donated the use of the land for GAI-DCFS.
“As the world’s first oceanarium and home to various interactive dolphin programs, we are proud to partner with the Georgia Aquarium on this Dolphin Conservation Field Station,” said Jim Jacoby, who also serves on the Georgia Aquarium board of directors. “It makes Marineland of Florida a must see destination for both tourists and scientists.”
GAI-DCFS is beginning photo identification on dolphins in the area. After the study has demonstrated the areas dolphins are utilizing, GAI-DCFS plans to conduct health surveys on these animals. Once this data is compared with values found from projects that have occurred or are occurring in Florida, Georgia and South Carolina, the marine mammal scientific community will be able to better assess of the health and status of dolphins in the southeastern United States. The facility will soon be ready to rescue stranded animals and rehabilitate them onsite.
“The facility will be a critical component of the Georgia Aquarium’s new research and conservation program, said Dr. Greg Bossart, Chief Veterinary Officer, Georgia Aquarium. “It will allow us to better understand marine mammal strandings, and how these events affect the health of our oceans.”
To learn more about the Georgia Aquarium’s Dolphin Conservation Field Station or to make a donation, please visit http://www.dolphinfieldstation.org/.