The Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA) announced today that Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium in Sarasota, Florida, was granted accreditation by AZA’s independent Accreditation Commission.

“AZA accreditation signifies that Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium is committed to meeting the very highest standards in the zoological profession,” said AZA President and CEO Dan Ashe. “It means that Mote is a proven leader in animal care and welfare and in providing educational and meaningful experiences for visitors.”

To be accredited, Mote underwent a thorough review to make certain it has met and will continue to meet ever-rising standards in categories including animal care and welfare, veterinary programs, scientific advancement, conservation, education and safety. AZA requires zoos and aquariums to successfully complete this rigorous accreditation process every five years in order to be members of the Association.

The accreditation process includes a detailed application and a meticulous on-site inspection by a team of trained zoo and aquarium professionals. The inspecting team observes all aspects of the institution’s operation, including animal care and welfare; keeper training; safety for visitors, staff and animals; educational programs; conservation efforts; veterinary programs; financial stability; risk management; visitor services; and more. Finally, top officials are interviewed at a formal hearing of AZA’s independent Accreditation Commission, after which accreditation is granted, tabled or denied. Any institution that is denied may reapply one year after the Commission’s decision is made.

Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium has been an accredited AZA member since 2003.

A blacknose shark's dorsal fin cuts through the surface in true Jaws fashion as it swims in Mote's large shark tank. The water is crystal clear and a larger Sandbar shark cruses along the bottom. Tarpon, Crevalle Jack and Red drum swim in midwater.
Sharks are featured in Mote Aquarium and are a central research topic at Mote Marine Laboratory. Credit: Olivia Raney/Mote Marine Laboratory.
Three boys gather around to read a gauge held by a Mote educator. The gauge is a simple plastic salinity meter for measuring how much salt is in the ocean water. They are in a classroom with microscopes on the tables and large windows looking out on the bay.
Left: Youths in AMI Kids organization learn from a Mote educator. Credit: Conor Goulding/Mote Marine Laboratory.
A boy leans over the edge of a touch tank to touch a large Bahama starfish lightly with two fingers.
Right: Visitor enjoys Mote’s touch pool. Credit: Mote Marine Laboratory.














“This accreditation honors the heartfelt efforts of more than 200 Mote staff and 1,600 volunteers who believe in our mission — today’s research for tomorrow’s oceans — whether they lead world-class science and conservation efforts, advance care practices for exhibited animals, rehabilitate endangered species or educate thousands of visitors,” said Dan Bebak, Vice President for Mote’s Education, Aquarium and Outreach Division. “At this time when many zoos and aquariums are increasing their commitment to science, conservation and quality of life for wildlife and people, Mote is gratified to be at the scientific forefront, with our 60-plus years of independent research, and in the vanguard of conservation-focused education, with 38 years of science-driven outreach through our public Aquarium.”

Mote leaders anticipate major advances on both fronts. In February 2018, the nonprofit institution announced its plans to build the spectacular Mote Science Education Aquarium on mainland Sarasota County, Florida, in the coming years. This will allow the current Mote Aquarium facilities on City Island, Sarasota, to transform and advance the research and innovation of Mote Marine Laboratory, the heart of that campus. Mote Science Education Aquarium is projected to double attendance of the current Mote Aquarium, particularly reaching more under-served audiences, while the City Island campus will evolve to become an International Marine Science, Technology & Innovation Park.

Read Mote’s February announcement and discover our campaign to support creation of Mote Science Education Aquarium: Oceans for All: Improving Access to Marine Science & Technology.

During Mote’s accreditation inspection, the AZA inspection team mentioned the following particular strengths in their report:

  • “The conservation and research programs are remarkable and beyond the scope of most AZA organizations
  • Mote has excellent training and enrichment programs for its animals
  • There is a strong, enthusiastic and innovative education program
  • Staff are professional, enthusiastic, passionate, and work well together. Many have worked at Mote for many years.
  • We commend the great new otter exhibit that was conceived and created in-house
  • ‘Oh Baby!’ is a creative, engaging and popular exhibit that was also created in-house. Well done!! (Note: This exhibit highlights the life cycles of numerous marine species.)
  • We were impressed with the speed with which staff got Mote back up and running after hurricane Irma
  • The new masterplan is fascinating and exciting.”

Following the inspection visit, Mote was named No. 2 in the top 10 list of most research-productive AZA members in the March 15 issue of FACETS Journal. The list was based on publications from 1993-2013 indexed in Web of Science database. Mote’s productivity of 641 research publications was a very close second only to the Smithsonian National Zoological Park with 650 publications. Read the FACETS article here.

About AZA

Founded in 1924, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the advancement of zoos and aquariums in the areas of conservation, animal welfare, education, science, and recreation. AZA is the accrediting body for the top zoos and aquariums in the United States and eight other countries. Look for the AZA accreditation logo whenever you visit a zoo or aquarium as your assurance that you are supporting a facility dedicated to providing excellent care for animals, a great experience for you, and a better future for all living things. The AZA is a leader in saving species and your link to helping animals all over the world. To learn more, visit

About Mote

Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium is independent, nonprofit 501(c)3 research organization founded in 1955 through the passion of a single researcher, Dr. Eugenie Clark, her partnership with the community and philanthropic support, first of the Vanderbilt family and later of the William R. Mote family.

Mote is based in Sarasota, Florida, with five facilities stretching from southwest Florida to Key West. Mote leads more than 20 research programs emphasizing conservation and sustainable use of marine resources. Mote’s vision also includes positively impacting public policy through science-based outreach and education. Showcasing this research is Mote Aquarium, open from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. 365 days a year., 941-388-4441, Find @MoteMarineLab on Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites.