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Clearwater Marine Aquarium CEO Steps Down

David Yates
David Yates, the aquarium's CEO will leave his post in March. CLEARWATER MARINE AQUARIUM

David Yates, who helped the Clearwater Marine Aquarium rise from the ashes, is stepping down.  

Yates said he wants to focus on public speaking and writing a book. Chief operating officer Frank Dame will become CEO in March.  

When Yates was hired to lead the aquarium in 2006, it was on the verge of bankruptcy. The aquarium now attracts visitors from around the world and is set to open a $70 million expansion later this year. 

Winter the dolphin
Winter the dolphin is the aquarium's most well known resident. CLEARWATER MARINE AQUARIUM

The turnaround, Yates said, is thanks to Winter. The bottle-nose dolphin with a prosthetic tale is the aquarium’s most famous resident, after it was featured in the 2011 film Dolphin Tale.  

“We have so many kids we work with. It can be dozens a day sometimes. We get kids who show up here because they’ve heard of that story,” Yates said in an interview.  

Yates added he will “go behind the scenes” after he steps down, working to bring major media to the aquarium (a Dolphin Tale TV series is in the works, he said). Meanwhile, Yates said, the aquarium will focus more on marine life conservation and research thanks to its expansion. 

“You’ll see us expand our work outside Clearwater and around the world in the next few years,” he said.  

Bradley George was a Morning Edition host and reporter at WUSF until March 2022.
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