Archive for the 'Sharks' Category



Thoughtful Thursdays: Maryland Shark Fin Ban Signed Into Law!

government affairs and policy update

Governor Martin O’Malley signed a bill prohibiting the sale, trade, and distribution of shark fins into law this morning, making Maryland the first state on the East Coast to grant sharks this crucial protection.

Governor Martin O'Malley signing the shark fin ban into law.

Governor Martin O’Malley signing the shark fin ban into law.

Our home state has now joined California, Hawaii, Illinois, Oregon and Washington in enacting laws regarding shark finning. Perhaps most exciting of all, the state of Delaware passed similar legislation only last night and New York is poised to do the same in the coming weeks.

Maryland’s law, which will help curb the unjust killing of approximately 100 million sharks every year, was sponsored by Senator Brian Frosh and Delegate Eric Luedtke and passed by the Maryland General Assembly with bipartisan support earlier this year.

There are as many as 62 species of shark found off the Atlantic coast of North America (and 12 species found right in the Chesapeake Bay). Because they have few natural predators, are slow to mature and produce very few young, shark populations are very sensitive to environmental and commercial fishing pressures. Their continued depletion could cause irreparable damage to marine ecosystems around the world.

The National Aquarium worked closely with the bill sponsors, the Humane Society of the United States, the National Wildlife Federation, Oceana, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources and recreational watermen on the issue. The new law provides exemptions for commercial and recreational fishermen, a museum, college, or university to possess a shark fin. The mid-Session addition of an amendment to exempt smooth-hound and spiny dogfish from the bill limits the impact on Maryland’s hard-working watermen yet still protects the most vulnerable families of sharks – large apex predators. The resulting legislation addresses both the supply and demand side of the market for shark fins by prohibiting the sale, trade, possession, and distribution of both raw and processed fins.

As part of our mission to inspire conservation of the world’s aquatic treasures, we take very seriously our responsibility to educate guests on the majesty and importance of sharks to the worlds’ oceans. We’d like to sincerely thank all those who showed their public support of this ban and Delegate Eric Luedtke and Senator Brian Frosh for championing this legislation through the General Assembly!

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A Re-cap of Maryland’s 2013 Legislative Session

government affairs and policy update

Maryland’s General Assembly adjourned sine die last night at midnight, marking the end of the 2013 Legislative Session. All three of the National Aquarium’s primary interests – capital funding, education funding, and a bill to ban the sale and trade of shark fins – were approved by the General Assembly and await Governor O’Malley’s signature. The shark fin bill even received an honorable mention as one of the “winners” of the 2013 session.

The National Aquarium would like to thank the members of the Maryland General Assembly — and particularly our representatives in District 46 — as well as Governor O’Malley and Lt. Governor Brown for their continuous support of our mission to inspire conservation of the world’s aquatic treasures.

Here’s an overview of our legislative activities over the past three months:

National Aquarium receives $5 million in capital funding for new exhibit

The National Aquarium’s request for $5 million in capital funding was approved by both chambers on April 8th. The grant has been earmarked to fund capital infrastructure improvements including the development of a new interactive Atlantic shorelines exhibit.

Read more about the new exhibit the State funding will support here.

Education funding for National Aquarium to admit Maryland school children increased by $154,000

The Governor included an additional $2 million in the State Aided Education Institutions (SAI) Funding budget and the increase was split evenly among the SAI institutions (others include the Science Center, Port Discovery, and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation). Despite recommendations to limit the funding increase to all SAI organizations with the exception of one institution, both the House and Senate fully funded the SAI budget at the Governor’s request. We will receive an additional $150,000 ($474,601 in total) in FY2014 to help bring Maryland students to the Aquarium.

Read more about the program here.

General Assembly passes bill to prohibit the sale and trade of shark fins

The National Aquarium’s primary conservation issue – a bill to ban the sale and trade of shark fins in order to curb the killing of nearly 100 million sharks a year – passed both chambers. The Maryland House of Delegates passed HB 1148, introduced by Del. Eric Luedtke, D-Montgomery County, by a vote of 119-15 in March and the Senate passed similar legislation – SB 592 introduced by Sen. Brian Frosh, D-Montgomery County – by a margin of 41-6 on April 4. Both bills passed with bi-partisan support, with final votes in the opposite chambers occurring before the General Assembly adjourned at midnight on Monday. The legislation now moves to Governor O’Malley for his signature.

If adopted, Maryland will become the first state on the East Coast and the sixth state in the nation to pass a law providing critical protection to sharks, and, therefore, supporting the health of the world’s ocean ecosystem. Other states that have laws in place are California, Hawaii, Illinois, Oregon and Washington – as well as all three U.S. Pacific territories of Guam, American Samoa, and Northern Mariana Islands.

Read more about the issue here.

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Blacktip Reef Update: Habitat Creation

We cannot wait for our new exhibit, Blacktip Reef, to open in summer of 2013! This coral-filled exhibit, replicating an Indo-Pacific ocean habitat, will feature 15 exciting species including blacktip reef sharks, reticulated whiptail rays and ornate wobbegong sharks. It will also be the new home for some of our most beloved animals, including our 400-pound green sea turtle Calypso and zebra sharks Zeke and Zoe. Guests will be able to experience this lively reef from many vantage points, including a new floor-to-ceiling pop-out viewing window that allows you to virtually step inside the exhibit.

It’s a long journey to opening day. Between animal transports, exhibit demolition, new construction and habitat fabrication, there are a lot of updates as we get closer to this summer. As we continue to build the future home of Blacktip Reef, get the latest on what’s new right here on our WATERblog!

While our construction crew is busy renovating the 200,000-gallon exhibit space for Blacktip Reef, designers and contractors are hard at work creating exact replicas of corals found in the Indo-Pacific. Their primary goal is to ensure that everything from habitat fabrication to assembly and installation is held to the highest standard of authenticity. Watch this video to see the team in action:

The process of designing and building an expansive reef habitat for our animals is both a science and an art! Exhibitors spent months researching the species of coral found in Indo-Pacific reefs, then creating molds and hand-sculpting each piece of rock coral. Our team has to create corals that look real and are also completely safe for our animals.

Why not use real corals for our new exhibit?

Live corals require constant and intense amounts of light and take years to grow. Artificial corals are easier to maintain and repair over the years. Additionally, by crafting each piece of coral that will go into our new exhibit, designers have complete control over the look and shape of Blacktip Reef.

The end product will be a colorful and rich marine habitat perfect for both our animals and our guests to explore and enjoy!

Stay tuned for more Blacktip Reef updates! 

Act Now! Help Maryland Become a Leader in Saving Worldwide Shark Populations

Our research team tags sharks off the coast of Ocean City every year to gather data on migration and abundance!

Our research team tags sharks off the coast of Ocean City every year to gather data on migration and abundance

Shark populations worldwide are in danger of collapse due to fishing pressures stimulated in part by the global demand for a non-nutritional delicacy known as shark fin soup. Scientists now estimate that nearly 97 million sharks - or roughly 7% of their worldwide populations – are killed every year. The best way to stop this practice is to eliminate the demand, which is exactly what the National Aquarium and our partners are proposing via legislation that will help eliminate the market for shark fins in Maryland.

Current Federal and Maryland laws ban shark “finning” by requiring that sharks be caught and delivered to market with their fins intact.  However, no current laws restrict the number of sharks killed for their fins, or limit the economic incentives to overfish sharks for their fins.

The Maryland General Assembly is considering a bill – House Bill 1148 and Senate Bill 592 – that would ban the possession, sale, and trade of shark fins. If passed, Maryland would join Hawaii, Washington, California, Oregon, and Illinois  and would become the first state on the East Coast to end our involvement in the unsustainable and inhumane market for shark fins. This is Maryland’s opportunity to lead.

The bill is currently being debated in the House Environmental Matters Committee and will likely be debated in the House over the next two days.  Act now by calling or emailing your legislators and urge them to vote for sharks.

Sharks are integral to the health of our oceans yet worldwide fishing pressure, driven by the demand for shark fins, is simply too great to allow sharks to have sustainable populations.

As part of our mission to inspire conservation of the world’s aquatic treasures, we take very seriously our responsibility to educate guests on the majesty and importance of sharks to the worlds’ oceans.  With your help, Maryland could become a leader in saving worldwide shark populations!

MPT Feature Program: The Great Aquarium Treasure Hunt

Throughout 2012, National Aquarium staff worked closely with Maryland Public Television to film and produce an educational, 30-minute special, “The Great Aquarium Treasure Hunt!”

Tune in to watch the program at 8:00 pm Wednesday, February 20, 2013!

“The Great Aquarium Treasure Hunt”
This educational, live-action, family program follows the fictional students of South Town Middle school on their class field trip through the National Aquarium! But this time there’s a catch – Science Teacher Mr. Hedgeman has turned it into a Treasure Hunt!

The great aquarium treasure hunt with MPT at National Aquarium - Dewey and Trevor

Join Dewey and Trevor on a wild exploration of the National Aquarium, home to thousands of species of marine life!

Throughout their journey, the students meet and learn from National Aquarium experts.  They explore marine life of the Chesapeake Bay, go “down under” to visit the crocodiles of Australia, discover the frogs in an indoor rain forest and submerge into the Atlantic and Pacific oceans for an up-close look at the array of deep sea life from sharks to rays to dolphins.

In the end, Dewey and Trevor will explore the entire aquarium, but can they be the first team to have all the answers before it’s too late? Tune in to find out!

Check out our exclusive behind-the-scenes photos from the filming below! 

A special thanks to all National Aquarium staff who were involved in the filming, especially our amazing on-screen stars: Allison, Beth, Jessica, Kyle and Andy!

In addition to airing on MPT, the program will be played at the Herman & Walter Samuelson Children’s Hospital at Sinai Hospital through its internal cable systems in patient rooms and waiting rooms.

Major funding for The Great Aquarium Treasure Hunt is provided by LifeBridge Health.

Don’t forget to tune in to MPT for the premiere of “The Great Aquarium Treasure Hunt” at 8:00 pm Wednesday, February 20, 2013!


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