STUART, Fla. —
The Florida Oceanographic Society unveiled its new Ocean Eco-Center Friday morning.
Florida Oceanographic Coastal Center is a 57-acre marine life nature center (the Coastal Center) on Hutchinson Island in Stuart. It’s dedicated to conserving the environment and motivating community members to become stewards of coastal areas.
The Florida Oceanographic Society was founded in 1964 and the Coastal Center was founded in 1994.
Construction for the new Ocean EcoCenter began in fall 2019 and the pandemic delayed the opening by a couple months.
Friday’s ribbon cutting ceremony featured local elected officials, environmentalists and others.
Congressman Brian Mast spoke about the importance of saving the ocean’s wildlife.
Mast spoke while holding a jar of toxic algae pulled from local waterways in order to send a message about the importance of the Coastal Center during his remarks.
“This place is a very real arrow in our quiver, a very real sword in our fight, that people that work here, Mark and others in going out there and fighting to make sure that this does not come into our home,” Mast said.
The new center features several aquariums, interactive activities, exhibits and a space for events.
The center is the first and largest expansion project for the 57-acre coastal center, which is known for its stingray exhibit and game fish lagoon. Other expansion projects will take place over the next two years.
Organization leaders said the new Ocean EcoCenter will help ensure that more people take additional steps to protect the local environment.
“Once they leave the center and they go out, they’re going to go, ‘Wow, not only do I know a lot more and I’m more informed about what’s going on and know what’s happening,” said Mark Perry, executive director of the Florida Oceanographic Society. “I’m going to take action today to do something about it and that’s what we want. We want to inspire that environmental stewardship of Florida’s coastal ecosystems. That’s key.”
“If you kind of see what is going on underneath the water I think it makes people a bit more entrenched into what’s going on. They also can be more familiar with what the shoreline protection that our native species provide,” said Brittany Biber, director of animal care and life support for the Florida Oceanographic Society.
Other organization leaders said they are excited about what the opening of the Ocean EcoCenter means for the community.
“I think this is an asset for Marin County,” said Allen Herskowitz, a member of the board of directors for the Florida Oceanographic Society. “I think it will not only make Florida Oceanographic a destination. It will help make Martin County a destination.”
Perry, who has been with the Florida Oceanographic Society since 1978, said Friday was also a significant day for him personally.
“Being with the organization for so long and watching it step by step, it is a big, big day,” Perry said. “It’s going to take a minute just to sink in.”
Tickets can be purchased at the door or online by clicking here.