Posts Tagged 'national aquarium in baltimore'

Animal Update – September 6

Between our Baltimore and Washington, DC, venues, more than 17,500 animals representing 900 species call the National Aquarium home. There are constant changes, additions, and more going on behind the scenes that our guests may not notice during their visit. We want to share these fun updates with our community so we’re bringing them to you in our weekly Animal Update posts!

Check our blog every Friday to find out what’s going on… here’s what’s new this week!

Emperor Angelfish in Blacktip Reef!

This reef-dweller, native to the Indo-Pacific, can be spotted swimming around our newest exhibit, Blacktip Reef!

One of the most amazing things about this species is the transition of their patterning and coloration from juvenile to adult!

juvenile emperor angelfish

Juvenile emperor angelfish (pictured above) are typically a dark blue with white rings.

It will take anywhere between 24 and 30 months for the angelfish to fully transition into it’s adult coloration (pictured below)!

adult emperor angelfish

Emperor angelfish typically stick to the reef’s ledges, flats and/or outer lagoon patch reefs, where they’ll feed on sponges and similar organisms.

Be sure to check back every Friday to find out what’s happening!


Animal Updates – August 30

Between our Baltimore and Washington, DC, venues, more than 17,500 animals representing 900 species call the National Aquarium home. There are constant changes, additions, and more going on behind the scenes that our guests may not notice during their visit. We want to share these fun updates with our community so we’re bringing them to you in our weekly Animal Update posts!

Check our blog every Friday to find out what’s going on… here’s what’s new this week!

Our Giant Pacific Octopus exhibit is back up! 

After weeks of necessary habitat maintenance, our giant Pacific octopus is back on exhibit!

national aquarium giant pacific octopus

Did you know? Octopuses are mollusks, related to squid, clams, and snails. Like squid, they are cephalopods, meaning ‘head-foot’, so named because the feet (arms) are attached to the head.

They’re highly-intelligent animals. To encourage cognitive thinking, we offer our octopus enrichment toys. Watch this video of an octopus using its 1,800 suction cups to dismantle a Mr. Potato Head:


Be sure to check back every Friday to find out what’s happening!

Blacktip Reef Sharks: Built for Speed


As some of the newest residents here at the Aquarium, our 20 blacktip reef sharks have become a topic of fascination for both our guests and our staff.

To gear you up for the Grand Prix of Baltimore this week, we’re taking a closer look at how these sharks and our other fast fish friends are built for maximum speed!

blacktip reef shark

The bulk of a shark’s speed comes from the caudal (tail) fin, which provides it initial thrust by swaying back and forth, pushing water and propelling the shark forward.

The pectoral (side) fins provided the lift need for the shark to continue moving at a steady pace and counter gravity.

Finally, the blacktip reef shark’s iconically-tipped fin helps the animal steer itself. Together with the pectoral fins, it also help provide the animal stability!

In addition to its physical build, the skin of a shark helps streamline the animal’s movement and augment it’s speed through the water! Dermal denticles, backward facing, tiny tooth-like scales that cover a shark’s body, actually help them swim faster and more efficiently by reducing water resistance.

Watch our blacktip reef sharks in-action on our live Shark Cam


Dolphin Stranding Update: Tentative Cause of Unusual Mortality Event Determined

Animal Rescue Update

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has determined, though preliminary tissue sampling, that the cetacean morbillivirus is to blame for the unusually high number of Atlantic bottlenose dolphins stranding along the East Coast in recent months.

To date, 97 percent of the dolphins tested (32 of 33) are suspect or confirmed positive for mobillivirus. This is the same virus that caused over 740 marine mammals to strand in a similar event back in 1987-88, the last time a massive die-off of bottlenose dolphins along the Atlantic Coast like this was observed.

What is the morbillivirus? 

Cetacean morbillivirus is a naturally occurring pathogen in marine mammal populations. It is not infectious to humans. At this time, there is no vaccine that can be easily deployed to stop the spread of the virus in wild, migratory dolphin populations; other than the animals natural ability to build antibodies to the virus.

Recently declared an Unusual Mortality Event (UME) by the federal government, these strandings have now reached numbers over nine times the historical average for the months of July and August for our region.

Although we have established a tenative cause, the UME investigation is still ongoing and stranding teams from New York to Virginia will continue to further evaluate tissue samplings and genetic sequencing. It may be years before we can truly confirm the cause for these strandings.

How is the National Aquarium involved in this event? 

National Aquarium’s Animal Rescue team responded to a live stranded bottlenose dolphin last Tuesday, August 20 at Assateague Island National Seashore. After a health assessment of the animal, veterinary staff recommended humane euthanasia due to the poor health of the animal. A full necropsy (animal autopsy) was performed by Aquarium staff to determine an underlying cause of stranding. Tissue samples have been submitted as part of the UME, and results are pending.

I have also been assisting the UME Incident Management Team with drafting a weekly Incident Action Plan that outlines objectives for response in the affected areas, staff and equipment assignments, formulating safety plans, and addressing gaps in coverage that arise during response. The Incident Command Structure is very effective when coordinating response to events such as this that cover a broad area and involve multiple government and non-government organizations.

Our team will continue to work closely with regional stranding partners and the federal government to help implement this plan and document this event for future research/learning.

As we continue to closely monitor this situation, stay tuned to the blog for updates! 

jenn dittmar animal rescue expert

Our 7-Day Pass is BACK – just in time for Grand Prix!

Our animals are ready for the Grand Prix of Baltimore, are you?! 


We’re excited to announce the return of our special 7-Day ticket, which allows guests to visit National Aquarium, Baltimore as many times as they like for seven consecutive days!

We’re providing this offer In celebration of the Grand Prix of Baltimore presented by SRT and this exciting time for our home city of Baltimore. There is so much to see at National Aquarium and the Inner Harbor – with this special National Aquarium seven-day ticket, you will have the opportunity to leisurely explore it all!

Guests visiting between Monday, August 26, and Monday, September 2, can purchase the special ticket and visit the Aquarium as many times as they like for seven consecutive days beginning with their first admission. The seven-day ticket is just one of several special offers for ticket buyers during Grand Prix week! The seven-day ticket offer is available to purchase online at or onsite at National Aquarium, Baltimore. All tickets issued for August 26 through September 2 will be valid for seven full days. Visit for full rules and regulations. 

Grand Prix of Baltimore ticket holders can enjoy the additional benefit of accelerated entry by presenting their valid Grand Prix of Baltimore entry (e.g., pass, hand stamp, wristband) and a valid National Aquarium entry ticket between Friday, August 30, and Sunday, September 1. Accelerated entry enables these ticket holders to bypass the general admission line. Entry is subject to timed and maximum building capacity restrictions.

One of the many things visitors will be able to experience during their visit to Baltimore and National Aquarium is Blacktip Reef, our newest, coral-filled exhibit replicating an Indo-Pacific reef! The exhibit is active with life that you can experience from many vantage points, including a floor-to-ceiling pop-out viewing window that allows you to virtually come face-to-face with the 20 fast-moving blacktip reef sharks; Calypso, the 500+-pound sea turtle and more than 700 other animals!

 national aquarium blacktip reef shark

Our newest exhibit, Blacktip Reef, is just one of the many things visitors will be able to experience during their visit to National Aquarium this week!

To further encourage downtown visitors, the Grand Prix of Baltimore presented by SRT will offer 10% off all adult race tickets (except Andretti Club and Kona Grill Turn 1 Club tickets) with purchase of a National Aquarium ticket through Sunday, September 1. Customers will receive a promotional code from the Aquarium that can be redeemed online via Mission Tix by entering the code on the “Promotions and Special Offers” tab or at any Grand Prix of Baltimore box office location. Code must be presented to redeem discount. For tickets and event information, visit the official event website at

We hope to see you downtown during Grand Prix week! 

Thoughtful Thursdays: Get to Know Our Chief Conservation Officer


On July 1st, Eric Schwaab joined the National Aquarium as our (first-ever) Senior Vice President and our Chief Conservation Officer. This newly-created position was developed to lead the Aquarium’s efforts in becoming a national leader in aquatic conservation and environmental stewardship.

Upon his appointment, Aquarium CEO John Racanelli said, “We are dedicated to our mission of inspiring conservation of the world’s aquatic treasures. Eric’s wealth of experience and passion will help us expand and better promote conservation action to protect the ocean, our planet’s life support system.”

Now that he’s a couple of months into his new role, I sat down with him to discuss his thoughts and plans!

Tell us a little about your background and why this work is important to you.

Eric Schwaab: I grew up in the Baltimore area and have many great memories of fishing, crabbing, boating and swimming on Maryland’s Atlantic Coast and in the Chesapeake Bay. Later in college I connected again to the natural world through work at Piney Run Park in Carroll County. That was the point that I really know that I wanted to make natural resource conservation a career focus. I have been very fortunate to realize that goal. Before coming to National Aquarium earlier this summer I was serving as the acting Assistant Secretary for Conservation and Management for the US Department of Commerce, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) overseeing work on a range of national fisheries, coastal and ocean issues. Immediately before that, as Assistant Administrator for Fisheries at NOAA, I was responsible for directing the National Marine Fisheries Service in its work on science, management and conservation of federal fisheries, marine mammals, sea turtles and other protected resources within the United States. I led the agency’s work to end overfishing, implement “catch share” management programs to better align the interests of commercial fishing businesses with conservation goals, and efforts to improve coastal and ocean habitat conservation.

Prior to your work in the federal government, you were the Deputy Secretary of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (MDDNR) and had previously served in other DNR capacities. What did these experiences teach you that will prepare you for your new role at the Aquarium?

ES: Working on conservation issues in a populated state like Maryland really forces you to understand the role that people must play in protecting our environment. We also live in a state where most people place great value on their natural surroundings. Chesapeake Bay conservation efforts in particular unite us, as we understand that mountain streams, forests and farms, and our urban and suburban communities all play roles in ensuring clean water and healthy habitats for fish, crabs and oysters. I have been fortunate to have had the chance to work closely with legislative leaders, state agencies, local governments and local residents across Maryland to support important state conservation initiatives, including Chesapeake Bay restoration, forest conservation, park land protection and fisheries conservation.

What interested you most about this position?

ES: Ultimately if we can show people what healthy bays, oceans, streams, and coral reefs look like, we have a good start toward inspiring them to do their part to make sure we have more “out there” of what they love here at the Aquarium. Through our exhibits and our current work in conservation and science, National Aquarium is helping to redefine the role of public aquariums as catalysts for tangible change in how people care for oceans and aquatic systems. Our role as a trusted source of information and our ability to communicate with millions of people annually provide significant opportunities to influence public policy and personal behavior on behalf of sustainable ocean conservation. I look forward to helping to lead that work.

You’ve held some pretty important positions within both the state and federal governments. With that experience, what is the most important thing you’ve learned?

ES: Even in high level state and federal government positions, real conservation commitment and action occurs at the local level. While effective conservation action depends upon sound science, effective strategies and rigorous attention to results, the most important ingredient is still local commitment to action. Having people who value natural resources and understand the strong, inherent relationship between a healthy environment and healthy communities and sustainable economies is critical. We see this everywhere today. Whether in the form of resilient coasts, sustainable fisheries or popular natural tourist attractions, communities gain when natural resources are healthy.

What is the biggest challenge we face in improving the health of our oceans?

ES: Understanding that we all must do our part. Climate change, ocean acidification and warming, depletion of fish stocks, and many of our remaining pollution challenges result from the cumulative actions of many individuals. These problems will not be addressed solely through some government program or “that other guy” behaving differently. We each have to take some responsibility for energy conservation, reducing fossil fuel emissions, maintaining healthy watersheds and making smart purchasing decisions if we are to sustain the resources we depend on and care about.

Much of your recent work has dealt with sustainable fisheries. What is the one thing you would like our readers to (understand or do) with regards to taking responsibility towards healthy fish populations?

ES: We have made a lot of progress nationally in ending overfishing and rebuilding depleted stocks. And while there is still work to do here and abroad, the bigger challenges to fisheries sustainability here and around the world are in declining health of coastal and ocean habitats. The best fishery management in the world will fall short if we do not take care of our coasts and oceans.

What are the next steps for National Aquarium’s Conservation Department?

We are committed to telling the conservation story more effectively. The feature exhibits here represent ecosystems that are threatened here in the Bay region and around the world. We want to use these exhibits to inspire greater appreciation and conservation action, among visitors, throughout the community and even among those who have not yet visited here in Baltimore. We also want to be more directly involved in conservation research, policy and action. We will be growing our work on important conservation science, policy and management issues, taking advantage of our experts in Baltimore and Washington, DC and enhance partnerships with others involved in this important work. And we will be seeking your help through member support and engagement.

If you could ask the reader to do one thing to improve our natural world, what would that be?

ES: Stop, look and appreciate all the natural world has to offer – – everything else will follow.


Check Out Our New Blacktip Reef Commercials!

Our advertising team here at the Aquarium has been hard-at-work producing all new creative pieces to represent our newest exhibit, Blacktip Reef!

The commercials for our new exhibit were shot over three days. Most of the animal footage was captured at our Animal Care Center. The actors were shot in a studio and the entire piece was edited together by our partners over at MGH.

Check out our finished products: 



Fun Fact: The movement of the animals featured in this commercial matched up organically with the script (those moments are rare when working with live animals)!

“Get Lost”


Fun Fact: We actually tried to match the personality of the actor with the fish appearing in the commercial. It just so happens that this actor felt well-matched with the clown triggerfish!

“Mother and Son”


Fun Fact: This commercial was actually the son’s first shoot! Pretty great for a first try!

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