To The Rescue

Sea life up close in Clearwater.

click to enlarge SHELL GAME: Peter, a turtle found on the beach in Treasure Island, arrives at Clearwater Marine Aquarium with the help of volunteers. - Courtesy Clearwater Marine Aquarium
Courtesy Clearwater Marine Aquarium
SHELL GAME: Peter, a turtle found on the beach in Treasure Island, arrives at Clearwater Marine Aquarium with the help of volunteers.

David Yates has lived in the Bay area for more than 20 years. He raised four kids ("I don't have a lot of hair left"), often bringing them to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium to learn about sea life and the environment. Now, he's the aquarium's CEO.

"It gives me an opportunity to give back to the community," he said. "It's very rewarding work when you see what you do and what you can accomplish."

The Clearwater Marine Aquarium is a nonprofit facility dedicated to research and education. The aquarium also rescues, rehabilitates and releases local animals that have been stranded or injured.

"That's really what we're all about," Yates said. "It's an amazing feeling."

The CMA has a full-time staff of 25, with more than 500 volunteers.

"The volunteers contribute thousands of hours. That's how we do what we do," Yates said.

"Volunteers love the compelling nature of the work. When you pick up a loggerhead sea turtle that's been stranded and bring it back to the aquarium and you rehabilitate it, it's really fulfilling."

Volunteers work in every area of the organization, said Yates, including animal care, education and operations. Working with animals keeps them coming back. But for others, donations are a more realistic way to support the aquarium.

"There are a number of fundraising events and campaigns, but there are two primary donation programs. There's a boat donation program which is very successful and an annual giving campaign," Yates said.

The goal for this year is $500,000. The CMA announced the target number just a few weeks ago.

"The money will go to marine life rescue and rehabilitation and marine-life education," said Yates. "It won't go to administration. It will go directly into the work we do."

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