Frequently Asked Questions

Why is the Discover Florida’s Oceans Specialty License Plate important?

Florida’s oceans, estuaries and coastal areas comprise a critical element of Florida’s economy, serving as a source of commerce for fishermen, commercial shippers, cruise ship operators, real estate developers, hotels and resorts, retailers and countless other business enterprises, large corporations and mom-and-pop businesses. Revenues generated from the sale of the Discover Florida’s Oceans plate will support scientific research, conservation and education projects of statewide scientific, environmental and economic significance, which may be used to develop solutions to the challenges of conservation and sustainable human development.


How much does a plate cost?

Florida legislation mandates a $25 annual use fee for a specialty plate, which is in addition http://helpseachange.org/to the standard license plate fee.


Who is Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute?

The best way to conserve natural systems is to understand them and the human interactions that affect them. Since 1963,  HSWRI has pioneered scientific discoveries about oceanic animals and their ecosystems; these discoveries help identify solutions to the challenges of both conservation and sustainable human development, which is HSWRI’s mission: “To return to the sea some measure of the benefits derived from it.”

HSWRI was founded in California and has operational headquarters in San Diego, California. The east coast offices opened in Orlando more than 20 years ago and HSWRI has conducted scientific research in Florida from these offices. HSWRI expanded its scientific research and education programs in Florida by creating a world-class research center in Brevard County, Florida, on land donated by the Richard King Mellon Foundation in 2009. This research center is uniquely located next to the Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge with access to both to the Atlantic Ocean and the Indian River Lagoon.

Our organization is an independent, not-for-profit public charity with programs in scientific research, conservation and education. It is not an advocacy organization.


What is HSWRI’s relationship to SeaWorld?

Hubbs was founded 50 years ago by the same people who founded SeaWorld. As a result of our founder’s vision, HSWRI enjoys a unique partnership with SeaWorld. HSWRI scientists have access to the world-class zoological collections of SeaWorld and Busch Gardens to conduct research that can help threatened species and wild populations. In many cases, this research would be difficult or impossible to conduct in the wild.

Many people confuse HSWRI and SeaWorld because we share the globally recognized and respected SeaWorld name. HSWRI is an independent non-profit organization.single manatee

Sea World supports HSWRI by providing annual donations and research facilities at SeaWorld Orlando and SeaWorld San Diego. SeaWorld supports the Institute because our scientific research is a valuable and important part of SeaWorld’s mission. HSWRI is one of many not-for-profit organizations supported by SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment.

HSWRI is a separate and independent non-profit organization classified by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501(c)(3) public charity. HSWRI must seek funds from many sources to fulfill its mission. Contributions from individuals, corporations and foundations are used to directly support the Institute’s independent and highly respected scientific research and education programs.


What does Hubbs do in Florida?

coconut point from dockHSWRI conducts a wide range of research projects in Florida. Active projects include responding to injured whales and dolphins that strand on the beaches of east central Florida; evaluating the ecology of dolphins as a top-level predator in the Indian River Lagoon; and providing education program development to promote scientific literacy. Some examples of our scientific excellence and leadership include:

  • Providing leadership in responding to live and dead dolphin and whale strandings in Florida’s northeast and east central counties, a “hotspot” region for dolphin and whale strandings in the southeastern U.S.
  •  Providing information to the statewide dolphin and whale stranding database on behalf of the NOAA National Marine Fisheries Service.
  •  Creating a world-class center for scientific research, conservation and education on lands donated to the Institute by the Richard King Mellon Foundation.
  •  Endowing the first Hubbs-SeaWorld Professorship at the University of Central Florida and attracting a world-class marine researcher to fill the joint faculty position.
  •  Seeking scientific solutions to human and animal conflicts through scientific research, use of bioacoustics and new technologies.
  •  Sharing our discoveries with teachers and students to promote scientific literacy through innovative programs.


Why did HSWRI decide to sponsor a Florida specialty license plate?

Florida’s specialty license plate program provides millions of dollars of voluntary, non-tax revenue to worthwhile programs throughout the state each year. HSWRI is conducting scientific research in Florida that has statewide, national and international significance. A stable revenue source, such as that from a license plate, helps fund HSWRI programs in research, conservation and education, thereby contributing direct and indirect benefits to Florida’s environment, economy and quality of life. Direct quality of life benefits include: gbheron

  • Seeking scientific knowledge to protect the environmental and economic value of Florida’s living ocean, estuary and coastal resources.
  • Promoting research to quantify the economic value of Florida’s ocean resources.
  • Expanding programs associated with HSWRI’s world-class research facility in Brevard County, Florida. This initiative will create high-tech jobs, expand HSWRI science programs throughout the region (Florida, Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea, and Gulf of Mexico), enhance scientific literacy through education and outreach programs, and contribute to a marine science and technology cluster of government, academic, high tech and non-profit research organizations in central Florida.
  • Providing essential public service through the proper handling and removal of dead stranded marine species from northeast and east central Florida’s beaches which protects human health, community aesthetics, and coastal community tourism interests.

Offering a Discover Florida’s Oceans license plate will enable state residents to show their support for and love of the oceans, a treasure that makes this state unique.


How do you market the plate?

Interest in the Discover Florida’s Oceans is widespread, given that most residents in the state live no more than 50 miles from the coast. HSWRI has developed an innovative marketing strategy to reach a broad statewide audience. Our marketing strategy is enhanced by our long-term relationship with SeaWorld . In addition, HSWRI has worked with several interested corporate sponsors to assist the Institute via direct marketing, promotion and advertising. bottlenose

Marketing Partners have included:

  • SeaWorld Orlando
  • Darden Restaurants
  • Ron Jon Surf Shop
  • ChevronTexaco
  • Anson-Stoner
  • Clear Channel Communications


How are the revenues distributed?

The Florida Legislature will direct that the revenues are distributed in the following way:

Twenty percent of the funds collected will be distributed to the Wildlife Foundation of Florida, Inc. in partnership with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FFWCC) for ocean, estuarine or coastal scientific research, conservation, and education projects of statewide significance.

Not more than 10 percent of the funds received may be used for administrative costs directly associated with Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute research, conservation and education programs and this specialty license plate funding.

Not more than 15 percent of the funds may be used for continuing promotion and marketing of the license plate.

The remainder of the funds – at least 55 percent – shall be used by HSWRI for its research endeavors, including collecting, analyzing, archiving and publishing scientific data regarding Florida’s ocean, estuary and coastal habitats and species that inhabit, utilize or migrate in Florida’s waters or coastal areas, and for education programs that promote scientific literacy.


Does the money stay in Florida?

YES. HSWRI filed Articles of Incorporation under Chapter 617 of the laws of the State of Florida to create the Hubbs Florida Ocean Fund in 2004. This independent Florida Corporation serves charitable, scientific and educational purposes, funded by revenues from the sale of Discover Florida’s Oceans license plates, exclusively in Florida.


What kinds of projects does the revenues fund? hswri stranding team

HSWRI works with FWCC scientists to determine project priorities on an annual basis. Central to those decisions is funding for critically needed scientific research and education that has both local and global importance. Examples of priority scientific research already identified include:

  • Expansion of HSWRI cutting-edge scientific research programs in bioacoustics, animal physiology, long-term ecosystem studies and aquaculture throughout Florida.
  • Programs associated with HSWRI’s statewide leadership in marine species strandings and animal health.
  • Experimental aquaculture on rare, threatened, endangered species and species of economic importance to Florida.
  • Economic studies of the value of Florida’s ocean resources to scientific research, tourism, biotechnology and living resources conservation management.
  • Support for the world-class marine research facility next to the Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge in Brevard County, Florida, on land donated for this purpose by the Richard King Mellon Foundation.
  • Support of research partnerships and programs with the Florida Institute of Technology and other organizations and institutions of distinction.
  • Education and research programs to share our world-class collection of over 500 whale and dolphin skulls to enhance public knowledge and appreciation for Florida’s diverse and valuable living ocean resources.


Do you have any partners?


YES. HSWRI prides itself in a long history of successful and innovative strategic partnering. A key partner in the Discover Florida’s Oceans license plate program is the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FFWCC), who receives 20 percent of the funds from license plate sales for ocean, estuarine or coastal scientific research, and conservation and education projects. FWCC shares the Institute’s core belief that scientific excellence and objectivity are the foundation for responsible fish and wildlife management to provide lasting benefits to Florida’s residents and visitors.

HSWRI has a long history of creating strategic partnerships with academic institutions, corporations and other non-profit organizations that share our dedication to scientific excellence, objectivity and accountability. Revenues from the Discover Florida’s Oceans will enable HSWRI to expand its strategic partnerships.


How does HSWRI ensure fiscal accountability?

HSWRI contracts for an independent third-party financial audit each year, per IRS guidelines, and provides the substantive findings of the audit in a Discover Florida’s Oceans annual report, made available on all websites associated with HSWRI and the Hubbs Florida Ocean Fund.


How much money do you raise annually?

Hubbs Florida Ocean Fund and HSWRI expect to raise between $300,000 to $400,000 each year by strictly following its marketing strategy and optimizing support from corporate marketing partners.