Addition of influential Florida facility expands Aquarium’s mission of conservation, education, research
Georgia Aquarium announced its acquisition of historic Florida attraction Marineland, home to the Dolphin Conservation Center and adjacent to the Georgia Aquarium’s Dolphin Conservation Field Station.
Marineland, which is located along the Atlantic coast just south of St. Augustine, Florida, opened in 1937 as Marine Studios, a facility designed and built for filming underwater sequences for motion pictures. Later, it became a theme park known as Marineland of Florida, and enjoyed great popularity in the 1950’s and 1960’s, becoming internationally known for its dolphin shows and exhibits showcasing various forms of marine life. It was one of the first such attractions in the state of Florida, and was named to the National Register of Historic Places. More recently, an updated and modernized Dolphin Conservation Center at Marineland has become a center for the study of marine mammals, particularly dolphins, and is one of the few facilities in the U.S. where humans can closely observe and interact with dolphins in an intimate environment.
The acquisition of Marineland is part of an overall long-term strategy on behalf of Georgia Aquarium to expand the positive benefits of its programs throughout the Southeastern U.S. In 2008, Georgia Aquarium opened the Dolphin Conservation Field Station (DCFS) at Marineland, a joint venture with Marineland’s Dolphin Conservation Center, immediately adjacent to the historic Marineland property. Among other initiatives, DCFS is dedicated to studying marine animals off the coast of Georgia and northeast Florida and rescuing and rehabilitating stranded animals. Now under the same ownership and direction, DCFS and the Dolphin Conservation Center at Marineland are expected to align even more closely in the future.
Georgia Aquarium and Marineland share a long history of working closely together for the benefit of marine mammals, and the Aquarium and its team members have a deep and abiding appreciation for Marineland and the significance of its heritage as one of Florida’s original coastal attractions. Jim Jacoby, Marineland’s previous owner, is a longtime member of the Board of Directors of the Georgia Aquarium, and has shown a strong vision for the future of Marineland as both an appealing and historic attraction and as a center for science, research, conservation and education, values that Georgia Aquarium shares and will carry forward under its stewardship of Marineland.
“We are excited to expand Georgia Aquarium’s positive influence through the addition of the historic Marineland property and its Dolphin Conservation Center, ” said David Kimmel, President and COO of the Georgia Aquarium. “Marineland’s modern-day incarnation, with its focus on conservation of dolphins and marine mammals, is an amazing addition to our family – in fact is a perfect complement to the existing education, conservation and research programs currently offered and conducted by the Georgia Aquarium. Institutions like Georgia Aquarium would not even exist if Marineland and others of its kind had not created an awareness and understanding of aquatic animals generations ago.”
While Marineland will be operated as a division of the Georgia Aquarium, no significant change in its day-to-day operations is expected in the immediate future. However, Aquarium representatives are already working with Marineland staffers to consider long-range plans for the Marineland property, and will work closely with area leaders to ensure its long-term viability as both a public attraction and a center for aquatic animal research and conservation. Georgia Aquarium annual pass members will enjoy free admission to Marineland, and the Aquarium hopes to announce additional special benefits and offers in the near future.