Posts Tagged 'Baltimore'

Sustainable Seafood Q&A with PABU’s Jonah Kim

Our Fresh Thoughts sustainable seafood dinner with PABU‘s Jonah Kim is next Tuesday, March 25th!Jonah Kim

In advance of his upcoming dinner, we chatted with Chef Kim about how the sustainable seafood movement is influencing Baltimore’s dining scene:

What’s your favorite sustainable seafood ingredient to prepare?
Oysters—I love oysters. Every oyster is different; you can source them from various regions and they come in different tastes and textures. I showcase my love for oysters in PABU’s signature dish, the Happy Spoon. This dish features a raw oyster in ponzu-flavored crème fraîche, topped with fresh uni and two types of fish roe. The combination of sweet and salty makes this one of our guests’ favorite dishes.

How is sustainable seafood playing a role in Baltimore’s dining scene?
We’re definitely lucky to be based in the mid-Atlantic region where you can find rockfish, oysters, crabs and more right in our backyard. I think the sustainable seafood movement is gaining momentum in the area, but continuing to grow the public’s awareness of and demand for sustainable seafood is key to growing it in the local dining scene.

What’s your biggest challenge when it comes to cooking sustainably?
Cooking sustainably is challenging in Japanese cuisine. Very few Japanese chefs are aware of whether or not ingredients are sustainable. Our goal at PABU is to offer the freshest product to our guests, but sometimes it’s difficult to find sustainable ingredients that are readily available. Hopefully soon, this will change.

What is one sustainable seafood ingredient you hope to see more of in restaurants (including your own) this year?
Clams. Right now we don’t have any menu items featuring clams due to the lack of availability. I’m hoping to get ahold of some in the summer. I’d love to do a fish pairing featuring spicy pork and clams.

Tell us a little bit about PABU and how your team is always churning out such delicious meals!
As the only izakaya in the Baltimore region, PABU’s concept was built from offering small plate menu options highlighting authentic Japanese flavors and local ingredients. At PABU, we pride ourselves on serving our guests the freshest ingredients from all over the world. I believe it’s the balance between texture and sweetness and spice that makes our dishes so unique and memorable.

Where do you get the seafood you serve at PABU?
PABU sources its seafood from all over the world: from the mid-Atlantic all the way to Japan. Our menu items vary according to seasonal availability of ingredients. For example, our soft-shell crabs come from the mid-Atlantic region, but we can only get our hands on those in the summer months.

If everyone could walk away from our Fresh Thoughts dinner knowing one thing, it would be…
By making the choice to dine at restaurants that support sustainable seafood, one person can make a change in the health of our oceans.

Can’t wait for the night of the 25th to see Chef Kim in action? He recently stopped by WBAL-TV to share his special Fresh Thoughts recipe for Asian Clam Chowder! Watch his segment here:

Chef Jonah Kim on WBAL

Black History Month: A Dive Into Pier 4′s Rich History

Every February, our nation joins to celebrate our rich African-American culture and to reflect on important historical events and individuals.

As part of our annual Cultural Series, we will be celebrating the wealth of history that exists in our local community! In anticipation of our Black History Month celebration this Friday, we’d like to share an interesting story that involves icon Harriet Tubman and our very own Pier 4.

Maryland native Harriet Tubman, the Underground Railroad conductor, abolitionist and suffragist, is one of the lauded figures of American history.  From 1850 to 1860, she led hundreds to freedom, ultimately gaining her the nickname “Moses.”

Baltimore Inner Harbor 1850

A view of Baltimore’s Inner Harbor in 1850.
Photo via Maryland Historical Society.

On October 21, 1856, Harriet Tubman helped a young woman named Tilly flee enslavement in Baltimore. Unable to safely bring Tilly to Philadelphia via a northeasterly route, Tubman cleverly devised a scheme to take Tilly on a southern steamboat route, eventually ending in Delaware.

The steamer Tubman intended to use was named Kent and was docked at Dugan’s Wharf (present-day Pier 4 – currently housing a portion of our facility).

Inner Harbor Map 1856

This map of Baltimore’s Inner Harbor in 1856 shows where the Kent would dock. Image via Dr. Kate Larson.

The Kent made weekly trips to Maryland’s Eastern Shore and several Chesapeake Bay tributaries.Tubman and Tilly were able to safely make it onto the Kent and travel to Seaford, Delaware.

Eventually, the pair arrived in Wilmington, Delaware, where they met with an Underground Railroad agent who helped Tilly reach Philadelphia and her freedom.

Special thanks to Dr. Kate Larson and the Maryland Office of Tourism for gathering and sharing these facts with us. For more information on Harriet Tubman and her Maryland roots, click here.

The National Aquarium is proud to be a part of such a historically-rich community. We hope to see you at our upcoming Cultural Series celebration

The Annual Resurgence of Urban Jellies!

national aquarium animal expert update

In late summer and early fall, Baltimore visitors and downtown workers are often startled when they glance down into the harbor and see large pulsing Atlantic sea nettles!

national aquarium atlantic sea nettle

Photo via Flickr user KTSeery.

The Atlantic sea nettle (Chrysaora quinquecirrha) is a jellyfish species native to the western Atlantic and the tributaries of the Chesapeake Bay. If we ever had a Maryland State jellyfish, it would be the notorious Atlantic sea nettle. While it’s true that most jellyfish species do make their homes in the ocean and are unable to tolerate fresher, “brackish” waters, this sturdy species can actually thrive in it!

Their umbrella-like bell is about the size and shape of grapefruit half. Long stinging tentacles trail from the margin of the bell and are used to capture food which includes plankton, other jellies and small fish. These jellies pulse up and down the water column, day and night, in search of food. During moving tides and windless days, large numbers of nettles may gather near the water’s surface.

national aquarium atlantic sea nettle

This jelly was spotted in the harbor water right outside of the Aquarium!

Jelly species survive the cold winter in a sedentary, polyp stage attached to hard surfaces like oyster shells, rocks and pier pilings. These polyps resemble tiny sea anemones and capture microscopic plankton with stinging tentacles. In late spring and early summer, when water temperatures start to rise, each polyp will start to produce and release tiny free-swimming sea nettles.

Feeding on the Bay’s abundant supply of plankton these nettles grow and reproduce rapidly. A single sea nettle may release up to 45,000 eggs daily. By July and August, sea nettle populations continue to expand and push north into the upper Bay. By the end of summer and early fall, the lack of rain allows the waters of the Inner Harbor to become saltier. This is usually when Atlantic sea nettles start arriving in decent numbers into the Inner Harbor.

jellyfish in the inner harbor

Photo via The Baltimore Sun.

The abundance of good food in these deep harbor waters usually results in some fairly massive nettles! And, just as our downtown sea nettle show starts to attract attention, it will soon come to an abrupt end. As the water temperatures begin to drop, the nettles die off and/or start shrinking rapidly. Though the jellies quickly disappear, it’s exciting to know that millions of tiny Atlantic sea nettle polyps are scattered throughout the Bay waiting for the warming waters of spring to start the annual cycle all over again!

national aquarium expert jack cover

Thoughtful Thursday: The Nation’s First Urban Wildlife Refuge!

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National Aquarium is proud to announce that our circle of partners at Masonville Cove will now include a federal agency: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS)!  Today, the National Aquarium and its partners joined with government officials and community members to formally announce Masonville Cove as the first Urban Wildlife Refuge Partnership in the United States.

John Sarbanes

Congressman Sarbanes speaking at today’s designation.

Through the Urban Wildlife Refuge Partnership program, FWS offices across the nation embarked on a mission to join forces with their local, urban conservation counterparts.  Dozens of worthy applications were submitted for official recognition, and eight partnerships were accepted for designation and support.  We are thrilled to announce that our own Masonville Cove is one of these eight!

Masonville Cove

Part of the recently restored area at Masonville Cove!

About the Urban Wildlife Refuge Partnership Program
While the FWS refuge system encompasses some of our country’s most pristine and unique landscapes, a majority of the refuges are in remote locations, making them inaccessible to large portions of the population.  With 80 percent of Americans living in urban areas, they identified the need to find innovative ways to share the FWS mission with this expanded audience. Cue the Urban Wildlife Refuge Program!

Ultimately, the goal is to work with others to conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people.  Through this new program, FWS aims to have a broader and more effective impact through partnering with existing urban conservation organizations.

At National Aquarium, our mission is to inspire conservation of the world’s aquatic treasures, and we are proud to take that mission beyond our doors with our amazing group of conservation partners. Today was a special day for National Aquarium at Masonville Cove.

National Aquarium is working to engage students and other local citizens in the process of habitat restoration and we are thrilled to be a part of this unique project – one that highlights the importance of creating and supporting a home for wildlife within an urban center and one that helps bring opportunities to connect with wildlife to urban populations.

- Eric Schwaab, Chief Conservation Officer for National Aquarium. 

Eric Schwaab at Masonville Cove

Our CCO, Eric Schwaab, speaking at today’s event.

While this initiative does not make the land at Masonville Cove a National Wildlife Refuge, it does mean that the FWS presence will be felt at the campus.  Already, several benefits have been realized including a FWS intern stationed at Masonville Cove, and the creation of a Wildlife Management Plan to maximize habitat use at the site.  All of the organizations involved share a common goal of environmental conservation and restoration, and by working together we all increase our chances of making this goal a reality in urban centers.

About Masonville Cove

The Masonville Cove Nature Area was opened in 2012 on a restored site owned by the Maryland Port Administration on the Patapsco River, allowing public access to the cove for the first time in over 70 years. The nature area offers opportunities within the city limits for walking, fishing, bird watching and other recreational activities. Currently 11 acres of the nature area are open to the public and, after further restoration in the next few years, 52 acres will be open to the public. National Aquarium helps lead community-based restoration efforts on the sight, engaging more than 1,000 volunteers in planting more than 45,000 native plants along the shoreline so far, including a wetland restoration event just last week.

Conservation Team at Masonville Cove

Our conservation team checking out Masonville Cove’s new official Urban Wildlife Refuge signage!

If you are interested in visiting the cove, there are many opportunities for recreation and educational programming.  Visit www.masonvillecove.org for details.  Masonville Cove is also looking for volunteers who love nature and enjoy sharing their passion with others! Friends of Masonville Cove work to improve and manage this urban wilderness area, as well as introduce other community members to the educational and recreational activities Masonville Cove has to offer. If you are interested in a long-term volunteer opportunity involving everything from debris cleanups to gardening to scientific wetland monitoring, please e-mail friends@masonvillecove.org for more information.

The National Aquarium will be hosting another habitat restoration opportunity at the Cove next Spring.  Sign up for our e-newsletter to keep up-to-date on these and other volunteer opportunities!

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Thoughtful Thursday: International Coastal Cleanup

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The International Coastal Cleanup is an annual coordinated volunteer effort to remove debris that has accumulated in our oceans and on our coasts. It is a chance for world citizens that are concerned about the health of our oceans and waterways to participate in meaningful action that will make a difference. In 2012, more than 560,000 volunteers from 97 countries picked up more the 10 million pounds of trash. This year’s efforts begin this weekend and will last throughout the coming weeks.

ft. mchenry cleanup

All types of volunteer groups will join forces over the next couple of weekends to remove and quantify the trash ending up in our waters. Because this is a coordinated effort led by the Ocean Conservancy, each volunteer will be asked to fill out a standard data sheet. This allows event coordinators to track the amount and types of trash that end up on our coasts every year and to make comparisons across the globe and through the years. Ultimately, it informs and focuses the efforts being made to change behaviors that will benefit our natural world.

The top ten list of items found on our beaches during the cleanup should come as no surprise to anyone. The list includes cigarettes, plastic bottles, plastic bags, food wrappers and straws – all single use items that we’ve come to rely on in our society of convenience. With the exception of cigarettes, the global list closely mirrors the list the National Aquarium has been tallying at Fort McHenry over the past 14 years. Of the 600,000+ items collected in this area over the years, more than 95 percent has been plastic or foamed plastic.

These items weren’t born in the ocean or the harbor, they were carelessly discarded on land and delivered to the nearest stream (often via storm sewers). From here, there are carried downstream by the tides and water flow until they end up on a shoreline somewhere.

Plastic debris at Ft. McHenry National Monument and Shrine here in Baltimore. Plastic pollution is seriously hurting the ocean and its inhabitants!

We know, if we want to make a difference, we need to stop the debris at its source – cleaning it up after the fact is not a long-term solution! We need to look at our own behaviors and determine how to eliminate the flow of debris from our homes to our streets to our waterways. We thought that if we focus on the 3Rs (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle) we would be successful.

For many years, the emphasis has been on recycling. In truth, recycling should be our last choice. Our ultimate success will depend upon how well we can assimilate the fourth R into the equation – Refuse. This world does not have unlimited resources and we need to stop acting like it does. We need to be thoughtful in our everyday consumer decisions so that we look beyond the gratification of that warm cup of coffee or cold soda and begin to consider the real-world costs of the decisions we make. The real-world cost of using non-degradable, oil-based, disposable drink ware instead of carrying a reusable coffee mug.

In the mean time, while we are figuring out how to turn our consumer society on it’s ear, we have a big mess to clean up. In my job, I get to see much of the Chesapeake Bay. I get to travel to it’s islands and remote wetland habitats and enjoy all of the benefits our natural world has to offer. In all of those travels, I have never seen a shoreline unmarred by the sight of trash. It’s everywhere. Baltimore and the more populated areas of the watershed are admittedly more affected by debris, but there is no place that is immune. If we want to truly champion a healthy Chesapeake (healthy for humans and animals alike), we need a trash-free environment. It is possible and we can start today.

If you haven’t already, register to join us at our October 5th Fort McHenry event in Baltimore or find another International Coastal Cleanup event near you!

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