Gulf Specimen Marine Lab continues towards coronavirus recovery

Cypress Rudloe feeds sea turtle at The Gulf Specimen Marine Lab
Cypress Rudloe feeds sea turtle at The Gulf Specimen Marine Lab(WCTV)
Published: Jun. 28, 2020 at 6:40 PM EDT
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - The Gulf Specimen Marine Lab continues to recover after the coronavirus forced closures and cancellations.

The aquarium is back open to the public, but some projects are still on hold. Doors were forced to close for about two months because of the pandemic, but dozens of animals were still in need of daily care.

Nurse sharks are a few of them. There are six nurse sharks now calling the marine lab home. Staff say some of them came from other aquariums, but most recently one coming from a casino in Mississippi.

“You can’t just release these back in to the wild. You have to either euthanize them or find another aquarium to take them,” said Cypress Rudloe, Director of the Gulf Specimen Marine Lab. “A lot of the aquariums don’t want them because they don’t make good displays, they lay on the bottom, they’re not up in the water.”

Rudloe remembers taking the sharks in. He says, they often find people purchasing the nurse sharks not realizing how large they will grow. It’s prohibited by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to release these sharks back in to the ocean from captivity.

"Their answer is to euthanize them, and that's just not something that I'm going to do. I will find a way to keep their life support going," Rudloe said.

But the nurse sharks aren't the only ones being cared for. Dozens of species of marine life fill tanks throughout the marine lab.

Despite two months of closures, that work hasn't stopped. Rudloe says the pandemic forced field trips and summer camps to cancel. The lab also works with several universities to provide species for studying and educational opportunities. Most of those orders, Rudloe says, also cancelled.

"We've definitely taken our shares of losses like that, but at the end of the day we can't just get rid of these animals," Rudloe said. "We're in a dark situation and our general operating revenue is gone, but we've got some massive, massive great things coming from the community."

The marine lab received a grant from Volunte

er Florida to build a new classroom for summer camps. They hope to break ground in September.

Gulf Specimen Marine Lab says they are planning on building a larger tank for the nurse sharks. Those plans are postponed indefinitely because of the virus.

Right now, the organization says they’re relying mainly on donations.

Copyright 2020 WCTV. All rights reserved.

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