Posts Tagged 'national aquarium'



Happy Maryland Day!

government affairs and policy update

Every year on March 25th the Old Line State celebrates the rich history of all things Maryland. Did you know? It was on this day in 1634 that colonists ventured up the Chesapeake Bay and arrived on Maryland soil!

Here at the National Aquarium we take pride in our Maryland roots. 70,000 Maryland schoolchildren, teaches and chaperones visit the Aquarium every year. Hundreds of National Aquarium staff and volunteers work tirelessly to restore the Chesapeake Bay. And the seals, sea turtles, and whales that get stranded off of Ocean City and other Maryland  beaches? National Aquarium resumes, rehabilitates and releases them back into the wild.

But the Aquarium’s Maryland pride does not stop there – we also have a strong representation of Maryland animals throughout our exhibits, both species native to our coast and ones that rely on the calm waters of the Chesapeake Bay to survive.

Everyone is quick to recognize Maryland favorites like blue crabs and terrapins, but here are some not-so-obvious animals that can be seen in Maryland waters: 

Lined Seahorse

This pale yellow seahorse has dark lines across its head and body that help it camouflage into Bay grasses.

lined seahorse

This species of seahorse can be found year-round in the middle and lower regions of the Chesapeake Bay, extending north to regions such as Calvert County and Kent Island. While usually found amidst the grasses in the Bay’s shallow waters, they can also be seen clinging to ropes and crab pots.

Sandbar Shark

Usually found along the North American Atlantic coast, these stocky brownish sharks can be seen in the shallows of the middle and lower regions of the Bay in Summer and Fall.

Sandbar shark

These Chesapeake Bay visitors are usually large schools of juveniles, usually ranging only about 2-3-feet in size, however, spotting an adult 7-foot sandbar shark in the Bay would not be unheard of. The Bay has become one of the most important sandbar shark nursery areas on the East Coast and young sharks often feed on native blue crabs. The sharks prefer the protected waters and stay near the smooth sandy bottoms of the Bay before heading back into the southern waters when the weather gets cooler.

Loggerhead Sea Turtle

Adult loggerheads are common in the lower Bay from May to November, but can also be seen as far north as Kent Island during summer months.

Loggerhead turtle

They come to feed on blue crabs and horse crabs and to hatch their young. The lower Bay is an important growth area for young loggerheads before they are large and strong enough to make it back into the open ocean.

Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphin

Bottlenose dolphins visit the lower and middle Chesapeake Bay in the summers, usually to Cape Charles and the James and Elizabeth Rivers.

dolphin count

They can go into fresh water for short periods and feed on a variety of the Bay’s fish, crabs, and other shellfish. You can find them traveling in pods ranging anywhere from 2 to 15 dolphins, staying in the Bay and rivers for a summer vacation before heading back to the open water when the weather gets cooler.

Cownose Ray

With a wingspan of up to 3 feet, cownose rays can also be found traveling in schools in the shallow waters of the Chesapeake Bay during summer months.

national aquarium cownose ray

The schools traverse the lower and middle parts of the Bay, sometimes going as far north as Kent Island, from May to October, before heading back to southern coastal waters when autumn comes. They come to the Bay to search of oysters and clams and a safe place to mate in the late summer from June to July. The schools can be large and visible as they move through the Bay.

How are you celebrating Maryland Day? Tell us in the comments section! 

Blog-Header-SarahElfreth

Guest Post: Fighting Seafood Fraud Protects Our Health and the Environment

government affairs and policy update

Today’s post comes from Jillian Fry, PhD, MPH. She is the Director of the Public Health and Sustainable Aquaculture Project at the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future. In her role, Jillian works to engage public health communities in research, communication, education, policy, and advocacy activities aiming to increase understanding of the public health implications of industrial aquaculture practices and to move toward more sustainable and responsible methods of production. 

In support of that important work, Jillian is a strong advocate here in Maryland for the fight against seafood fraud.

Are you getting the seafood you are paying for? Maybe not– an investigation by Oceana revealed last year that a third of seafood sampled in the U.S. was mislabeled. In an effort to reduce seafood fraud, The Maryland Seafood Authenticity and Enforcement Act was introduced in this year’s state legislative session, and I strongly support the bill due to the potential effects of mislabeled seafood on human health, fish populations, and the environment.

People choose the seafood species they eat based on many factors—how it tastes, health benefits, if it’s responsibly fished or farmed, and if it’s generally known to have low contaminant levels. Many seafood guides exist, such as the popular Seafood Watch from Monterey Bay Aquarium, to help consumers make choices about seafood, but efforts to educate consumers about safe and environmentally sustainable fish have a reduced impact if seafood is not accurately labeled.

monterey bay aquarium seafood watch

Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch guide.

When purchasing wild-caught fish, consumers should seek species known to be from well-managed fisheries to avoid overfishing and bycatch concerns. In the case of farm-raised fish, it should be from an operation that avoids use of chemicals, antibiotics, high densities of fish, and feed made mostly from small fish caught in the ocean (this contributes to overfishing). In addition, certain fish carry advisories, especially for pregnant women and young children, to limit or avoid due to contamination of heavy metals or chemicals.

Oceana’s investigation found overfished species sold as fish from well managed fisheries (e.g., Atlantic halibut as Pacific halibut), farmed fish sold as wild-caught (e.g., farmed tilapia as red snapper), and fish with health advisories being sold as fish with no advisories (e.g., tilefish as red snapper and halibut).

One goal of educating consumers about healthy and sustainable seafood options is to shift demand and change commercial fishing and aquaculture practices. But, if producers can pass off their product as a fish known to be safe and ecologically sustainable, there is little incentive to change practices due to market forces. This also puts honest wild-caught fishers and fish farmers at a disadvantage. To increase demand for fish that are safe and caught or produced sustainably, we need to know what we are eating and where it comes from, and that is why we need better monitoring and enforcement of seafood labeling in Maryland.

For more information on Jillian and the Public Health and Sustainable Aquaculture Project’s work, click here. For more information on The Maryland Seafood Authenticity and Enforcement Act, click here

Blog-Header-SarahElfreth

Animal Rescue Update: Harbor Seal Rescued After Shark Bite Injury

national aquarium Animal Rescue Update

Our Animal Rescue team is excited to announce that we recently received funding to support necessary upgrades to our seal rehabilitation facility! The new upgrades will include new enclosures with larger pools and the addition of life support. Our Animal Rescue and Development staff have been working very hard the last few years to find funding to support these upgrades, and our hard work has paid off. We are currently working with a design group to draft a final set of blueprints, and construction work will be begin in just a few short weeks!

To prepare for the upcoming construction work, our seal rehab area is currently closed and not admitting patients for long-term rehabilitation. Even while closed, we continue to be committed to responding to seal sightings in our response area, and coordinating care of seals that are sick or injured and require medical treatment.

We are working closely with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)  and our local associates that can accommodate seals for rehabilitation. We would like to thank the Marine Mammal Stranding Center (MMSC) in Brigantine, New Jersey for their assistance in admitting two recent patients from Maryland. Several weeks ago, MMSC assisted us by admitting a critical harp seal from Assateague, Maryland, that unfortunately expired the following day.

Most recently, MMSC stepped in to help us by admitting a harbor seal from Ocean City, Maryland that was severely injured. The seal was the victim of a shark bite injury, and required immediate medical attention.

Warning: Some readers may be sensitive to the graphic nature of the following image.

animal rescue seal shark bite

Trained First Responders with the National Aquarium collected the seal and transported it to the National Aquarium for initial care and stabilization. The following morning, the seal was transported from the Aquarium to MMSC for long-term rehabilitation. The seal has a long recovery ahead of him, but is receiving the medical care needed to treat the wounds.

seal in rehab at national aquarium

It is collaborative partnerships like this that make the marine mammal and sea turtle response and rehab network so successful!

Stay tuned for periodic construction updates and a sneak peek of the ‘new’ seal rehabilitation facility when it is completed!

national aquarium Animal Rescue Expert jennifer dittmar

Blacktip Reef Update: Exhibit Thrives in Its First Six Months!

As our teams mark the six-month anniversary of Blacktip Reef, we’re happy to report that our newest exhibit continues to thrive and evolve!

This Indo-Pacific reef habitat is now home to 779 animals representing 70 species including blacktip reef sharks, clown triggerfish, tasseled wobbegongs, a humphead wrasse, stingrays, a green sea turtle and more!

Here’s a re-cap of some of the exciting things that have happened in Blacktip Reef over the last six months: 

  • The Aquarium has welcomed over 381,000 visitors in the six months since Blacktip Reef opened on August 8th!
  • More than 46,000 students have experienced the new exhibit.
  • As part of our ongoing partnership with Discovery Channel, our live Shark Cam has reached over 2.6 million viewers!
  • Our education and biological programs teams have shared more than 1,400 interactive presentations, shark feedings, diver talks and education carts with the public.
  • According to data collected by IMPACTS Research & Development, the opening of Blacktip Reef has further enhanced the National Aquarium’s reputation as one of the “top three” aquariums in the United States!

We’re proud to have created not only a beautiful exhibit, but one that has inspired our guests to care about Indo-Pacific coral reefs and their inhabitants, and to feel they have a stake in our mission to preserve and protect them!

For more information on how Blacktip Reef is doing after its first six months, check out our full press release.

Have you had the opportunity to visit Blacktip Reef? Share your experience with us in the comments section! 

Thoughtful Thursday: 14 Ways to Love the Ocean

Blog-Header-ConservationExp

We spend the month of February showering friends and family with love, so why not shower our natural surroundings with a little love and appreciation, too? They are, after all, the reason why we can continue to live on this planet!

national aquarium ocean love

As part of our Month of Love celebration, I’ve gathered 14 easy ways for you to show the ocean some love:

  1. Play in/on it. It is hard to escape the respect and awe you will feel once you’ve immersed yourself in it.
  2. Discover what is beneath the surface. Become a certified SCUBA diver – or check out some of the amazing animals and habitats at the National Aquarium!
  3. Protect ocean habitat. Look for ways you can protect or restore vital ocean ecosystems. Join us for a coastal sand dune restoration event May 16-17 in Virginia Beach.
  4. Start at home. What you do in your home and your yard has downstream effects on our rivers, bays and oceans. Fertilize less (or not at all), discontinue use of herbicides and pesticides and don’t dump chemicals into your drains.
  5. Drive less. As distant as it seems, our greenhouse gas emissions on land are directly linked to ocean acidification. If we decrease the concentration of these gases in our atmosphere, we can help the oceans maintain a healthy balance.
  6. Learn to share. We share the ocean with an amazing array of plants and animals. Slow down when boating near marine mammals and sea turtles, make sure you retrieve any lost fishing line and watch animals from a distance to ensure their safety and yours.
  7. Eat sustainable seafood. Seafood is a very healthy meal option, but make sure the fish you eat is caught or farmed responsibly.
  8. Eat locally. See #5. Locally grown food options cut down on transportation in the supply chain and are fresher alternatives.
  9. Learn about ocean planning efforts. Join us for the Ocean Frontiers II Maryland Film Premiere to hear how lessons learned in New England will help guide efforts here to chart a new path for the Mid-Atlantic’s long-term health.
  10. Ditch the plastic. Plastic pollution is one of the most visible threats facing our oceans. Find ways to reduce the amount of disposable plastics you use in your daily routine.
  11. Definitely ditch the microplastics. Microplastics are the tiny plastic particles that show up in popular personal care products, like face scrubs. These plastics are washed immediately down the drain and into our nearby rivers and streams after use. Although hard to see with the naked eye, microplastics are seriously damaging the health of our oceans.
  12. Visit or support a National Marine Sanctuary. Similar to National Parks on land, these sanctuaries are areas set aside to help protect vital ocean resources.
  13. Stay inspired. Check out our live exhibit webcams if you ever need a quick dose of inspiration!
  14. Share it with your family. Form cherished memories by spending time with your family at the water’s edge. It will heighten your appreciation of both!

So, what do you say? Are you ready to join me in giving our blue planet some love this Valentine’s Day?

Laura Bankey

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

Celebrate Love With Us All February Long!

Fishing for love this month? You just might find it at the National Aquarium, where we’re celebrating love throughout the month of February with special deals, events, features right here on WATERblog and MORE!

  • Planning a special visit to the Aquarium for your loved one? Couples can receive two adult admission tickets and two tickets for a 4D Immersion Film for just $59.95! Valid only for the month of February, this special offer can be purchased online at aqua.org/love with the promo code CUPID (blackout dates may apply).
  • For those looking for a unique way to celebrate Valentine’s Day, join us for Date Night on Saturday, February 15! Couples 21 and older can enjoy crowd-free exhibits, live music, light fare and an open bar of beer and wine from 7-10 pm (Price: $99 for non-member couples, $69 for members).
  • For more information on “roe-mantic” events and promotions around town, head to aqua.org/love!

Help our friends at Sinai Hospital spread some love this Valentine’s Day! 

Sinai Hospital has launched a special Valentine’s Day e-campaign to benefit their Children’s Hospital. Their goal is simple: send 2,000 aquatic-themed valentines to their pediatric patients!

sinai valentine card

To help support Sinai’s pediatric work, head over to their website and choose your favorite aquatic valentine to send to a patient. It’s that easy!

Stay tuned to WATERblog for upcoming love-themed features on some of our favorite species! 


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