Leadership Forum

Moving from Rescue to Recovery of the Florida Reef Tract
An Association of Zoos & Aquariums’ Leadership Forum

May 9 & 10, 2019 | Washington, DC | Marriott Wardman Park
Registration and hotel accomodations are now available. Room discounts available until Tuesday, April 16.

In August 2018, the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) called on the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA) requesting expert assistance in an unprecedented rescue and recovery effort. Florida Reef Tract (reef tract) coral are suffering mass die-off from disease. The situation is dire. AZA-accredited aquariums and zoos are answering the call, providing expert care for rescued corals, saving them from near-certain extinction.

In 2014, an unknown disease began spreading throughout the FRT, affecting more than half of Florida’s stony coral species. The number of species affected and the high mortality rate make this a potentially catastrophic event. Once a coral begins to lose tissue from this disease, it is almost certain the entire colony will die within weeks or months, threatening extinction of the entire local ecosystem.

But, there’s hope. Leaders with the FWC, National Marine Fisheries Service, Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection have assembled the Florida Coral Rescue Team and initiated the Florida Coral Rescue Plan to save what healthy coral and place out of harm’s way in secure land-based facilities. This plan aims to prevent ecological extinction along the reef tract for the most susceptible species and maintain as much genetic diversity as possible.

This FRT is the United States’ largest barrier reef. The reefs and their spectacular biodiversity attract millions of tourists from around the globe, generating $8.5 billion in economic activity and supporting over 70,000 jobs. Even as the rescue effort ramps up, partners are looking ahead toward reintroduction of these coral in what will be the most challenging and ambitious marine ecosystem recovery efforts ever undertaken.

Please join us. Registration and hotel accomodations are now available.

About the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Leadership Forums

Reaching audiences of 200 million per year, setting the gold standard of excellence in animal care with our accreditation program, and building on decades of experience saving animals from extinction, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums is positioned to convene stakeholders to save wildlife and wild places. AZA’s Leadership Forums convene leaders, experts, and stakeholders to explore solutions to the toughest and most urgent challenges in animal welfare, public engagement, and wildlife conservation.

After attending this Leadership Forum participants will:

  • Understand the complex issues and perspectives relevant to the rescue and recovery of the Florida Reef Tract;
  • Clarify roles your organization can take, independently and collaboratively, to advance work on the rescue and recovery of the Florida Reef Tract;
  • Enhance relationships with leadership from zoo and aquariums, federal and state agencies, and like-minded organizations and companies working toward the rescue and recovery of the Florida Reef Tract;
  • Expand cross-sector collaboration to achieve rescue and recovery of the Florida Reef Tract; and
  • Explore the implications of this disease through the broader Caribbean.


  • Capped attendance at 200
  • Federal and state agency leadership
  • AZA zoo and aquarium leadership (executive director, senior leadership team, board/governing authority)
  • Conservation NGOs
  • Corporate partners

Registration is now open!
Register and make hotel arrangements today.

Have questions? Please contact Amy Rutherford, Director of Professional Development & Education for all program-related inquiries. Cheryl Wallen, Director of Conferences can assist with hotel and registration related questions.

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