Posts Tagged 'National Aquarium in DC'

Animal Update – July 12

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!

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Guests can now HEAR our electric eel “stun” it’s food!

Electrophorus electricus—everything about this eel’s scientific name says high voltage! Of the fishes able to generate an electrical discharge, electric eels are by far the champions, producing up to 600 volts!

electric eel

They use this voltage to stun their prey and to protect themselves from predators.

Our staff in Washington, DC has recently installed an amplifier in our eel’s habitat that converts these shocks into audible sounds! Because water conducts electricity so well, the amplifier is able to actively broadcast sounds from the eel’s different electric organs – which he uses to scan his surroundings (these eels are mostly blind and use their electric pulses to navigate) and occasionally produce an impressive stun.

Check out this video that captured the sound from the amplifier during a recent feeding:

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

Animal Updates – June 21

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!

Blind Salamanders on Exhibit! 

Our blind salamanders are adjusting well to their new exhibit space at our DC venue! Since first receiving the set of salamanders back in September, our herpetologist Calvin Weaver has been hard at work re-creating the cave habitat in San Marcos, Texas where this species can be found.

blind salamanders

Did you know? Since this species has evolved underwater in these cave habitats, they have no need for functional eyes or even skin pigments. They are also the only species of salamander to keep their gills (which allow them to breathe underwater) their entire lives. Other species of salamanders will lose them as adults, when they move onto land.

blind cave salamanders

Sadly, the only viable habitat for these salamanders is being seriously threatened by both water quality degradation and the increased draining of  San Marco’s aquifer for city use. They are now considered critically endangered by the state of Texas.

Many conservation groups have made breeding these animals a priority. We’re very excited to be one of the first organizations to receive some of these successfully-bred animals!

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


Thoughtful Thursdays: Understanding Seafood Fraud

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We all know that the seafood choices we make directly affect the health of our oceans. How the fish is fished or farmed, where it is fished or farmed, if it is overfished, if other species are accidentally caught along with the desired species: all of these issues make a difference in the overall health of our marine ecosystems. Fortunately, there are tools that are available to help us make the right choices both in grocery stores and in seafood restaurants.

What happens, though, when make the effort to make the right choices, but we are sold mislabeled fish and we end up eating something completely different from what we ordered? This is one of the major aspects of Seafood Fraud, and it happens more often than we think. To raise awareness of this important conservation issue, seafood fraud was the chosen theme of last night’s Fresh Thoughts dinner at National Aquarium, Washington, DC.

According to a study done by our partners over at Oceana, close to 33 percent of the seafood purchased in the US is mislabeled.

This is not necessarily the fault of the restaurant or grocery store. Mislabeling can happen anywhere in the supply chain. A vast majority of the seafood we consume in the US is imported. There are several steps involved in getting a fish caught or farmed in a foreign county onto your dinner plate. Many folks are involved (fishermen, farmers, distributors, importers, exporters, etc) and there are limited resources available to inspect seafood imports. Further more, generally consumers have a limited ability to truly recognize what fish we’re eating. The situation is ripe for us to be taken advantage of.

This hurts us as consumers and as concerned citizens of our blue planet. Often, we are sold cheaper fish in place of premium species that we desire. This trend also hurts honest fishermen, distributors and chefs that are doing their best to make responsible business decisions while providing for their families. Just as importantly, though, is the harm this is causing to our marine ecosystems. Knowing the growing trend for choosing sustainable seafood, sustainable choices are often swapped with seafood that is “red-listed” to take advantage of the willingness to pay a little bit more for seafood that supports healthy oceans.

“The best way to combat seafood fraud is to require traceability – or the ability to track our fish from boat to plate.” said Beth Lowell, campaign director for Oceana, during last night’s event. We as consumers need to be assured of the source of our seafood. In the US, fishermen already provide much of this information upon landing. Unfortunately, there is no accountability in making sure it then is kept intact throughout the rest of the supply chain. And for the vast majority of the seafood that we consume that in imported, there are almost no checks and balances in place to protect the consumer.

So, what can we do? Here are some simple ways you can help combat this issue:

  • We have to let our elected officials know that we are aware of this issue and are concerned about how it is affecting our families, our economy and our oceans. Tell your Senator you want to help them fight seafood fraud!
  • Take steps to understand and decrease the number of steps it takes for the seafood that you consume to get from the boat to your plate. In Maryland, for example there is a True Blue program that identifies restaurants that are selling locally sourced crab meat. Many Community Supported Fisheries (CSFs) are also developing across the country. These programs make a direct link to consumers and local fishermen, allowing us to purchase healthy, local seafood while supporting our local economies.
  • Spread the word to friends and family. Awareness is the first, and arguably most critical, step to harnessing real change!

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Meet Some of the Best Dads in the Animal Kingdom!

In celebration of Father’s Day this weekend, meet some truly awesome animal dads!

Seahorses

longsnout seahorses

Male seahorses take on an interesting role when it comes to parenting. It is the male who becomes pregnant and delivers the babies! Seahorses have monogamous relationships, and the male cares for the unhatched eggs, regulating the conditions inside the pouch where the eggs are stored.

Arowanas

silver arowana

Arowana dads do a lot to take care of their little ones! A male arowana will build a nest for young fish, as well as protect them from harm. If his spawn are in danger, he’ll suck them up into his mouth to keep them from getting hurt.

Emperor Penguins

emperor penguin

Photo via National Geographic.

The male emperor penguin is a dedicated dad! After laying her egg, a penguin mom will return to the ocean for two months to fish. During that time, the male cradles the egg between his feet, taking care not to expose it to the elements. He does not eat until the mother returns!

Mouth Almighty

mouth almighty

When breeding, it is the male that will take up the female’s sack of eggs and incubate them in his mouth for about two weeks. After the eggs hatch, the developing fry will continue to stay in the safety of the male’s mouth for about another week. During this time, the male does not eat.

Golden Lion Tamarins

golden lion tamarin

Male golden lion tamarins are ever the attentive fathers! They will “co-parent” offspring with their mate and can often be observed carrying their young on their backs in between feedings.

Be sure to bring Dad to the Aquarium this weekend to meet some of these incredible animal parents in person! 

World Oceans Day Re-cap!

This weekend, we celebrated World Oceans Day in both Washington, DC and Baltimore, MD! The ocean-related festivities included everything from aquatic stilt performances to participatory art installations! We hope all of our guests enjoyed celebrating the big blue with us!

Check out this photo re-cap of our events:

Although World Oceans Day has come and gone, we encourage you all to continue to celebrate, explore and protect the ocean. Collectively, let’s take what we learned during World Oceans Day and apply it to our daily lives.

Here are five easy ways you can help the ocean: 

  1. Reduce your energy use
    Carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels can lead to ocean acidification, which is harmful to ocean life. You can help reduce the amount of carbon dioxide you put into the atmosphere by riding a bike, walking or using public transportation and by turning off the lights when you leave a room.
  2. Use less plastic
    When plastic debris ends up in the ocean, animals can mistake it for food and eat it by accident, causing animals to choke or clogging their digestive systems. You can prevent this by limiting plastic use and always disposing of trash properly. Choose reusable items such as cloth grocery bags or refillable water bottles.
  3. Cut apart six-pack rings
    The plastic rings used for soda containers can pose a threat to marine life. Creatures can get caught in the rings and sometimes are unable to free themselves. You can help save these animals by cutting apart the rings before throwing them in the trash.
  4. Conserve water
    Reducing your water use can minimize wastewater runoff into the ocean, preventing chemicals and other contaminants from damaging marine habitats. You can conserve water by taking quicker showers and turning off the water when brushing your teeth.
  5. Eat sustainable seafood
    Overfishing can lead to an irreparable loss in certain seafood populations. To prevent this, avoid catching or eating certain species that have been exploited, such as bluefin tuna and Chilean sea bass. Visit seafoodwatch.org for more sustainable seafood recommendations!

Remember, even small changes can make a WHALE of a difference! 


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