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FLORIDA AQUARIUM WINS FIRST PLACE GULF GUARDIAN AWARD

It's Time Graphic
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 3, 2002

STENNIS SPACE CENTER, Miss.
The Gulf of Mexico Program recently announced that the Florida Aquarium will receive a first place Gulf Guardian Award for 2002 in the Partnership Category. The award will be presented to representatives of the Aquarium at the Clean Gulf Conference scheduled for Nov. 5-7, in Galveston, Texas.

Three years ago the Gulf of Mexico Program developed the Gulf Guardian awards as a method of recognizing and honoring the businesses, community groups, individuals, and agencies that are taking positive steps to keep the Gulf healthy, beautiful and productive. The Gulf of Mexico Program began in 1988 to protect, restore, and maintain the health and productivity of the Gulf of Mexico ecosystem in economically sustainable ways. Award entries were received from Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas. A first, second, and third place award are given each year in six categories individual, business, youth and education, nonprofit organizations, government, and partnership efforts.

The Gulf Guardian Awards take on special significance in 2002 as we celebrate 30 years since the passage of the Clean Water Act, said EPA Administrator Christie Whitman. The efforts of those being recognized as Gulf Guardians are key to our success as we address water issues. These award winners accepted the challenge and have joined us as we restore and protect our nation's waters for future generations."

As a member of the Tampa Bay community and the Gulf of Mexico neighborhood, The Florida Aquarium is dedicated to the conservation and preservation of Florida's aquatic ecosystems, said Dr. Ilze K. Berzins, Director of Animal Health, Conservation and Research. This project provides a unique opportunity for increasing public awareness of our unique habitats and has created an incredible collective stewardship a partnership of many local organizations working together for the protection and preservation of Florida's fragile habitats. We are very honored to receive this award.

Fantasy Island: A Cooperative Conservation and Education Project, is located just north of the Alafia River in upper Tampa Bay. It is a small, three-acre, man-made cay. Fantasy Island is an offshoot of two large spoil islands -- islands created by the deposition of dredged bay bottom -- owned by the Port of Tampa. The island was overrun by invasive vegetation and was experiencing problems of erosion. The Florida Aquarium has been working in partnership since 2000 with the Tampa Port Authority and multiple other organizations to rehabilitate and enhance the small island. The site will be incorporated into the Aquarium's local eco-tour programs and has been designed for the purpose of educating the public and school groups about the habitats that are found in the bay.

Gulf of Mexico Program Office Director Jim Giattina said, The Gulf Guardian Award exemplifies what the Gulf of Mexico Program is all about ‑‑ innovative solutions that come about when we pool resources and look for creative ways to positively impact our quality of life and economic well-being. We are all one Gulf community and have only one Gulf of Mexico. Projects like these are helping to protect our local coastal waters, which significantly contributes to the Gulf's beauty and value, said Giattina.

For a list of all the Gulf Guardian Award winners for 2002, visit the Gulf of Mexico Program web site at http://www.epa.gov/gmpo and click on the Gulf Guardian Award button on the left.

The Gulf of Mexico Program is underwritten by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and is a non-regulatory, inclusive consortium of state and federal government agencies and representatives of the business and agricultural community, fishing industry, scientists, environmentalists, and community leaders from all five Gulf States. The Gulf Program seeks to improve the environmental health of the Gulf in concert with economic development.

Editor's Note: For more information about the Gulf Guardian Awards and the Gulf of Mexico Program, call Terry Hines Smith at 228-688-1159. For more information about Fantasy Island and the Florida Aquarium call Andrea Davis at 813-367-4036.

Gulf of Mexico Program Office
Mail Code: EPA/GMPO
Stennis Space Center, MS 39529-6000
228-688-3726
FAX: 228-688-2709


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