The Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute Foundation is the organization behind many of those colorful Florida specialty plates you’ve surely seen around town. In 1998 the foundation as designated as the recipient of user fee funds for 4 specialty plates. The funds received from the annual fee for the plate are used by the foundation to make grants which serve the legislative language of each plate.
The Protect Wild Dolphins plate, enacted in 1998 and designed by marine artist Steve Diossy, enables 24/7 emergency response for dolphins that become stranded or entangled in fishing gear or other items foreign to the oceans or estuary ecosystems. Harbor Branch’s marine mammal teams and other collaborators also conduct a variety of scientific studies to help understand dolphin health, life history, and the environment where they live.
Protect Florida Whales plates came about in 2002 supports several whale species found in Florida waters, including the most endangered of all great whales: the North Atlantic right whale. Funds from this plate, designed by marine life artist Wyland, support scientific research on marine mammals and the protection of the endangered species through public education and conservation.
Aquaculture plates were enacted in 2004. Did you know that half of the seafood we eat comes from fish farming? Fish, clams, shrimp and plants are items grown for food and for restocking overfished areas. Designed by wildlife artist and conservationist Guy Harvey, this plate supports research to advance the aquaculture industry such as land-based culture methods that reuse water and limit waste while growing healthy and safe seafood.
Another Guy Harvey designed plate is Save Our Seas which funds research on Florida’s waters and coral reefs. Harbor Branch scientists and others investigate the health of coastal waterways by utilizing a network of automated water quality measurement stations that allow researchers and the public to track conditions in popular boating and swimming spots.
Indian River Lagoon Facts
The Indian River Lagoon is 156 miles long and narrow, occurring approximately between 27º and 29º North latitude.
It is one of the longest barrier-island/tidal-inlet systems in continental U.S.
It is a unique, highly diverse, shallow-water estuary of national significance - one of 28 in the U.S.
The IRL is among the most biologically diverse estuaries in North America! It straddles a subtropical climate to the south, and a warm-temperate climate to the north. The influence of these two distinct provinces is one of the factors underlying the spectacular biodiversity found within the lagoon.
High biodiversity is also fostered by the presence of several distinct habitats that serve as home to the plants and animals of the IRL. Saltmarshes, mangrove forests, and seagrass meadows, are foremost among the habitats whose continued health is essential for a healthy lagoon.
The IRL region is home to more than 2,200 animal species: Nearly 700 fish species, 310 bird species, and over 1,000 invertebrate species. Approximately 50 threatened or endangered species can be found in the IRL region, including 12 plants and 36 animals.
Over 1/3 of the nation's manatee population lives in or migrates through the IRL and there are more than 1,000 resident bottlenose dolphins.
The economic impact of the IRL is $7.64 billion per year which is more than one-seventh of the region’s economy.
It is estimated that 35-45% of the research, education and outreach at the Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute at FAU is on the Indian River Lagoon.
On behalf of all Lovers of the Lagoon, Thank you, Harbor Branch, for your work!
Information provided by Dr. Dennis Hanisak.