Pinellas County is home to some of the most avid environmental groups in the Tampa Bay area. The Sierra Club has its regional office in St. Pete. Tampa Bay Watch is posted just outside of Fort DeSoto and activists pushing for conservation-related causes are aplenty.
But it was a Tampa group that nabbed Creative Loafing’s nod for best environmental group in the 2015 Best of the Bay series. The Florida Aquarium, located in downtown Tampa’s Channelside district, earned that honor, beating out runners-up Tampa Bay Watch and Lowry Park Zoo.
While it may seem an attraction that may not be the best pick for environmental activism, the aquarium expands its work far beyond the reaches of glassed-in aquatic displays of brightly colored fish, sea turtles and sharks.
As part of its mission statement, the aquarium conducts scientific research, participates in animal rescue, rehabilitation and release and conservation of coral reefs.
The Florida Aquarium partners with the University of Florida’s Center for Conservation to preserve and restore coral reefs, sea turtle populations and other crucial marine ecosystems.
In early August, the Florida Aquarium partnered with the National Aquarium of Cuba to continue coral reef conservation efforts. That served as the first agreement Cuba’s national aquarium entered into with any U.S. aquarium.
The Florida Aquarium has also been working with the Coral Restoration Foundation for 10 years to develop techniques that allow researchers to produce coral on shore that can later be used to reproduce and restore wild populations.
The award was earned through a pool of online voters and served as a reader’s choice in the 25th anniversary edition of Best of the Bay.