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2003-01-29 17:51:53

Ocean Fund Gives $480,750 In New Grants

One of the recipients is the Perry Institute for Marine Science, which operates the Caribbean Marine Research Center in the Bahamas.

The Ocean Fund of Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. has awarded $480,750 in seven new grants to marine conservation organizations, including a two-year, $200,000 grant to the World Wildlife Fund, Chairman and CEO Richard D. Fain announced today.
In 6 1/2 years since the launch of the Ocean Fund, the global vacation company has donated $5.95 million on behalf of Royal Caribbean International and Celebrity Cruises to 37 different organizations working to protect the marine environment.

The seven latest grants, ranging from $12,000 to $100,000 annually, will support projects related to research in coral disease, deaths of whales and dolphins from fishing-net entanglement, protection of sea turtles, and marine science education.

The contribution to World Wildlife Fund is aimed at a cetacean bycatch initiative involving 25 leading marine experts from six continents. They are working to improve fishing practices and prevent the capture and death of whales, dolphins, and porpoises in fishing nets. One focus will be Mexico's Gulf of California, where the endangered vaquita marina porpoise faces extinction. There are less than 600 vaquitas in the wild, and as many as 80 vaquitas die in fishing nets every year.

First-time grant recipients are the Bermuda Biological Station for Research, Island Dolphin Care in Key Largo, Florida, and the University of the West Indies in Barbados. The Ocean Fund also awarded grants to three previous winners -- Bermuda Underwater Exploration Institute, the Florida Aquarium in Tampa, and the Perry Institute for Marine Science, which operates the Caribbean Marine Research Center in the Bahamas.

"There are so many interesting and vital marine-conservation efforts underway by the grant applicants, it became very difficult to choose only a select few," Fain said. "We see great things coming from the seven grant winners, and we hope that over time, the Ocean Fund will be able to reach many more of these worthy organizations."

One of the new grantees, Island Dolphin Care, serves critically ill and special-needs children from around the world through dolphin-assisted therapy programs. A $50,000 grant will enable Island Dolphin Care to install interactive, educational aquariums and learning stations in the central meeting room of its new two-story facility.

    The complete list of Ocean Fund grant recipients is as follows:
    * Bermuda Biological Station for Research: $75,000 over three years to
      study the impact of pollutants on coral health and develop an early-
      warning diagnostic system for corals in Bermuda and other island
    * Bermuda Underwater Exploration Institute: $68,000 over two years to
      build and furnish a second classroom for the research aquarium's
      Explorer Camps educational programs.
    * The Florida Aquarium: $20,500 to complete the installation of a
      Caribbean corals propagation farm and create educational materials at
      the Tampa facility.
    * Island Dolphin Care: $50,000 to install seven interactive, educational
      aquariums and learning stations at the new Island Dolphin Care Center in
      Key Largo, Florida.
    * Perry Institute for Marine Science: $31,250 to conduct a survey of Exuma
      Cays Land and Sea Park, comparing a marine-protected area to non-reserve
      areas, and to develop educational materials for Bahamian students.
    * University of the West Indies: $36,000 over three years for the Barbados
      Sea Turtle Project, monitoring the nesting and foraging activities of
      hawksbill sea turtles.
    * World Wildlife Fund: $200,000 over two years to support a pilot project
      in the Gulf of California aimed at reducing global bycatch of cetaceans
      -- whales, dolphins and porpoises -- by focusing on the endangered
      vaquita marina porpoise.


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