The Florida Aquarium began as the Clearwater Marine Science Center (CMSC), a private non-profit educational organization located on Clearwater Beach, Florida incorporated in 1977. The Florida Aquarium, Inc. was incorporated on December 12, 1986 as a separate not-for-profit organization. The newly organized Florida Aquarium Board of Directors formally committed to building a public aquarium comparable to the finest in the nation. Briefings with local and state officials were conducted and broad-based support for the project was garnered from the local Clearwater Chamber of Commerce to then Governor Bob Graham. On August 15, 1992, The Tampa City Council voted to accept the financing package and site work began within the next few months for the new Aquarium. During the next three years of construction, educational outreach programs were held throughout the community to create awareness for the project.
On March 31, 1995, The Florida Aquarium opened its doors, serving one million residents of and visitors to the Tampa Bay area and bringing a positive economic impact of $60-million to the community in its first year of operation. The Florida Aquarium was first accredited by the American Zoo and Aquarium Association (AZA) in March 1997. The annual attendance averages 650,000, and in late 2010, The Florida Aquarium welcomed its one-millionth (1,000,000th) participant in an education program. Currently, the Education Department reaches between 80,000 and 100,000 youth through onsite and outreach programs for all ages.
The Florida Aquarium showcases the aquatic animals and ecosystems of Florida and around the world. Far more than just an attraction, The Florida Aquarium is actively working around the state in research and conservation programs including coral propagation, underwater archaeology and animal rescue and rehabilitation. The main exhibit Galleries and focus areas are comprised of the following: Wetlands Trail, Aquariumania, Bays and Beaches, No Bone Zone, Coral Reef, Dragons Down Under, Ocean Commotion, and Explore A Shore (an outdoor water play zone).