Help Protect the Earth on Earth Day and Every Day

As we get ready to celebrate Earth Day, here are some things you can do to help protect the Earth. The National Ocean Service put together this list 0f 10 choices you can make for a healthier planet.Earth Day NOAA

Living with less plastic
Reduce the amount of reusable plastic in the world. According to a recent report, by the year 2050, there will be more plastics in our ocean than fish. Small changes over time add up to a big difference, especially when using plastic.Less Plastic

Protecting endangered animals
When guests visit Newport Aquarium, not only do they get to see amazing animals, but they also get to learn about how to help those animals and their environment. Newport Aquarium and other AZA accredited zoo and aquariums work to protect some of the world’s most endangered animals in their facilities.

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Nearly all species of sea turtle are classified as Endangered. Newport Aquarium is a part of a sea turtle rehabilitation program, to rescue and release baby sea turtles back in to the wild.

Aquariums allow for people to see and interact with animals that they never would get the chance to normally. Aquariums also give a chance of a close and personal interaction with animals that can allow for guests to develop a special connection and help develop a passion to protect the animals and their environment.

Importance of Water
Newport Aquarium hopes to educate people about the importance of water and about the everyday things they can do to help protect our oceans, planet, and animals. A “Water Story” sign welcomes guests to exhibits. Guests can discover diverse ecosystems, the source of our planet’s water and threats to the world’s water as they visit.

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The World Rivers exhibit allows for guest to learn about a highest density and diversity of nine different rivers from five different continents.

Newport Aquarium also strives to improve water quality and conservation efforts to help the aquatic life in both ocean and fresh water environments all over the planet. Learn more in our World Water Day post.

Learn to love sea life
Through education; you will grow to appreciate ocean and marine life and take a more caring and careful approach to all things oceanic. A great way to do this is to visit local aquariums and AZA institutions, like Newport Aquarium.

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Overhead view of the Coral Reef, guests can see on a behind-the-scenes tour at Newport Aquarium.

Reduce plastic
Stop one time plastic. Plastic bottles, straws and containers are dangerous for the environment. Try to use reusable products as much as you can. Whether it is water bottles, tuber wear containers, or reusable straws, using these items help cut down on the use on one time plastics. This in return, can reduce the amount of harmful plastic found in wildlife.

Always recycle
Recycling helps to reduce the pollution caused by waste. Try to make full use of the recycling depots in your local area.

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Volunteer and Donate
Volunteer to clean up local rivers and beach areas. Join thousands of volunteers at this year’s ORSANCO River Sweep, and clean up the Ohio River, its tributaries and riverbanks on June 17, 2017.  Volunteer with the WAVE Foundation  to excite, engage and educate our community about the wonders of aquatic life and the importance of conservation.

Most of us want to make a difference and do something good for the planet. Earth Day is the perfect time to reflect and see what we can do to protect our planet.

 

Takeover Tuesday: Meet Diver Jon

Takeover Tuesday features a “day in the life” of biologists at Newport Aquarium. Be sure to follow us on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

My name is Jon Nonnenmacher and I am the Lead Dive Safety Officer for Newport Aquarium. My main job is making sure every volunteer or staff SCUBA diver is safe in and out of the water. Not only do I make sure that all the equipment is in working order and within safety standards, I also make sure that the dive team is up-to-date on safety requirements and procedures followed by OSHA.

Diver Jon

Jon Nonnenmacher is the Lead Dive Safety Office for Newport Aquarium. He joined the Dive Services program as an intern from Wright State University, and has been a Dive Safety Officer for 7 years.

I have been a SCUBA diver for 10+ years now and I am currently working on becoming a PADI dive instructor with our local dive shop named Scuba Unlimited in Blue Ash Cincinnati.

Diver Emergency Training
I joined the Dive Services program as an intern from Wright State University. After my internship was up, I loved being a volunteer for the aquarium, and committed at least two days every week to come down and volunteer. The Lead DSO at the time saw my passion for diving, and she decided to bring me on the dive team. I have been a DSO for 7 years and the Lead DSO for 2 years.

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Diver Emergency Training is training that all divers must go through to be a diver; this way if an emergency happens, the divers will know how to respond and what they can do to help the victim.

In this picture, you can see me leading a group of five volunteer divers through Diver Emergency Training. This is training that all divers must go through to be a diver; this way if an emergency happens the divers will know how to respond and what they can do to help the victim.

Passion for Shark Rays

My passion for the shark rays grew quickly while working at Newport Aquarium. With the approval of the Husbandry staff, I was given the opportunity to work with the shark rays. In this picture, you can see me getting close to our large female shark ray, Sweet Pea, and placing my hands on her.

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Diver Jon works closely with the shark rays. With the help of the Husbandry staff, we are able to perform routine health evaluations in our shark tank acclimation pool.

We do this type to help the animal get used to having divers around them, and to make sure they’re not stressed. With the help of the Husbandry staff, we are able to perform routine health evaluations in our shark tank acclimation pool. You can see and learn more about our acclimation pool on a Behind the Scenes tour offered at Newport Aquarium.

Safety First

The main job of a Dive Safety officer is to make sure that all the divers are safe. We have about a dozen Husbandry staff divers and more than 100 WAVE dive service volunteers. The best part of the job is letting a new diver know when they are going into our Shark exhibit for the first time.

Diver Jon

“The smile and joy they have before and after the dive is always an awesome story.”

The smile and joy they have before and after the dive is always an awesome story. In this picture, you can see me helping  one of our husbandry/vet staff members get ready for a dive in the shark tank. I am making sure that all of her equipment is in working order by doing a buddy-check before she gets into the water.

Dive Equipment

Another fun aspect of my job is maintaining all the dive equipment and making sure it is in safe working condition. I have taken classes on servicing and repairing the 1st and 2nd stages of a regulator (that is how a diver can breathe the mix gases from his cylinder to his regulator) (mix gas in a cylinder is roughly 22% oxygen and 78% Nitrogen).

Dive Equipment

The main job of a Dive Safety officer is to make sure that all the divers are safe. We have about a dozen Husbandry staff divers and more than 100 WAVE dive service volunteers.

There are other types of mix gas blends for different types of diving, but at Newport Aquarium, we dive basic mix gas. I also take care of the maintenance of the cylinders, which include the valve that the air comes from. I work on gear from the Buoyance Compensator Device or BCD for short, to the Full Face Mask, which is the mask that divers wear underwater, and they can talk to the guests.

Dive Signals

In this picture you can see me giving an under dive sign. A clinched fist on top of your head means that the diver is “OK” and ready to start the dive or to signal to the topside divers that they are OK after a dive.

Diver Jon

A clinched fist on top of your head means that the diver is “OK” and ready to start the dive.

I am giving my topside Standby an OK sign before I go into the Shark tank exhibit for some basic maintenance. Next time you see a dive in the water be sure to give them a high-five and a big wave.

Check out our other #TakeoverTuesday posts.

It’s Time to Reforest Northern Kentucky

Details:  The 10th Annual Reforest NKY event will be March 25, 2017 at the Piner property of Big Bone Lick State Park.  More information here.  All are welcome – from those who have no tree experience or knowledge to those in a life-long career in arboriculture.   If you like trees, you’ll fit right in.

By Ric Urban, Newport Aquarium

Spring is here officially and Reforest NKY is heading out to Big Bone Lick State Park to plant trees in an effort to bring some old farmland back to its natural state.  This year Reforest NKY has partnered with the Center for Environmental Restoration in planting one of their projects along Gum Branch Creek.  The site has been prepared and the stream restored to its original flow, which includes a newly restored wetlands area.

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Reforest Northern Kentucky is a successful, sustainable event.  Since 2007, more than 36 acres of protected public park and school land have been planted with native woodland trees and nearly 3,000 volunteers have participated.  Image courtesy of Northern KY Urban and Community Forestry Council

We have a water story to tell when planting trees.  Trees are important for stream and river health.  Have you ever spent time walking along a stream, to see a crayfish or a minnow darting along in the current? There is something about listening to the breeze through the leaves, being shaded from the sun and checking out all of the cool creatures that live in this watery habitat.

Throughout Northern Kentucky there are streams, creeks and rivers that have trees lining the waterways.  This is called the “riparian zone.” This riparian ecosystem is made up of trees, shrubs and plants that filter the water before it enters the stream, prevents soil erosion and sediment pollution in the waterway, and also creates shaded areas, keeping the streams cool and livable for the aquatic species. So putting it simply, trees save fish.

The WAVE Foundation at the Newport Aquarium is working with the Northern Kentucky Urban and Forestry Council (NKYUFC) to increase our public education and awareness of the importance of trees in our communities. By planting trees and preserving our riparian (riverbank) zones, we are improving our environments, creating clean and safe waterways and enhancing our quality of life.

On Saturday, March 25th, 2017, the Northern Kentucky Urban and Forestry Council will be hosting its Annual Reforest NKY Event at Big Bone Lick State Park in Boone County. This is the 10th year that Reforest NKY has planted trees throughout Northern Kentucky.  Nearly 3,000 volunteers have participated in planting thousands of tree seedlings in Boone, Kenton and Campbell counties.

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Come out and join us planting trees on Saturday, the weather is going to be great!  Come dressed to get muddy and bring an extra pair of shoes for the trip back home.  Image courtesy of Northern KY Urban and Community Forestry Council.

The next time you’re at Newport Aquarium, check out the Water Story, which shows how important a role healthy streams and rivers play in our everyday lives.

Let’s Discover the Wonder…. Together – Plant a Tree and Save a Fish.

Immersive Stingray Experience Coming to Newport Aquarium in May

NEWPORT, Ky. — Today Newport Aquarium announced, Stingray Hideaway: Enter their World; the only stingray experience of its kind in North America, will open in May. The highly interactive new exhibit will allow guests to discover one of the ocean’s most mysterious animals from above and below the water’s surface and even the opportunity to touch them. stingray-hideaway-full-color

“When Stingray Hideaway opens, it’s quickly going to become a guest favorite,” said Eric Rose, Newport Aquarium Executive Director. “Anytime our guests are able to experience what it feels like to touch an animal, a personal relationship is built that leads to a lifetime of love and respect for those animals.”

Stingray Hideaway is the biggest development at Newport Aquarium since Shark Bridge opened in 2015. When it opens this summer, the 6,000 square feet signature attraction’s soaring 40-feet high atrium ceiling will allow sunlight to filter down on the wide-open, expansive area of tropical habitats below. The project represents a major investment in the aquarium of more than a million dollars.

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Guests will be invited to explore the tropical habitat from below the water’s surface. Once underwater, they’ll have a 360-degree view of stingrays swimming around them.

Highlights of the new experience include a 17,000-gallon stingray touchpool where guests can interact with two dozen stingrays. Among the most innovative of elements, the touchpool will feature a 30-f00t long tunnel where kids and adventurous adults will be able to see stingrays swimming from below the touchpool’s surface, effectively allowing them to enter the stingrays’ underwater world. Another special feature is a touch area for smaller children to get up close to several juvenile sharks at their level.  Rounding out the experience, guests will be able to explore the tropical island habitat around the touchpool featuring land-dwelling creatures like iguanas and lizards.

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Stingray Hideaway: Enter their World will open this May. The 17,000-gallon stingray touchpool features an innovative, 30-foot long tunnel where kids and adventurous adults will be allowed to enter the stingrays’ underwater world.

The extensive project will transform the space previously occupied by Canyon Falls, which closed in December. Stingray Hideaway: Enter Their World will be open year around and will be included with general admission.

WAVE Foundation Expanding Outreach with Stingrays

In conjunction with Stingray Hideaway, WAVE Foundation at Newport Aquarium is expanding its outreach efforts, with a new outreach vehicle and a new state-of-the-art mobile stingray outreach cart – the only one in the country.

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WAVE Foundation at Newport Aquarium is extending its outreach efforts with a new state-of-the-art outreach cart.

“By having these new outreach tools, WAVE will more than double its ability to serve more than 100,000 community learners annually, serving youth and community members in need who may not be able to visit the aquarium,” said Scott Wingate, Executive Director of WAVE Foundation.

For more information, visit NewportAquarium.com or call 800-406-FISH (3474).

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Newport Aquarium, named one of the top U.S. aquariums in 2016 by Leisure Group Travel, and has showcased thousands of animals from around the world in a million gallons of water since 1999. Named a top U.S. aquarium by US City Traveler and Destinations Travel Magazine in 2014, and also by Travel Channel in 2013, Newport Aquarium is a Herschend Family Entertainment company and an accredited member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. Newport Aquarium is open to the public 365 days a year and is located across the Ohio River from downtown Cincinnati at Newport on the Levee.

 

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African Penguin Awareness Days Oct. 8 – 16 at Newport Aquarium

By: Ric Urban, Chief Conservation Officer

Newport Aquarium is celebrating African Penguin Awareness Week October 8th  through October 16th. On Saturday, October 8th we are kicking off African Penguin Awareness Day with an entire week focused on African Penguins. During this week, we want to tell the story of the African Penguins and what the WAVE Foundation and the Newport Aquarium are doing to prevent the species from moving closer to extinction. From Saturday October 8th-Sunday October 16th we are donating every “Dollar for Conservation” that we get to SANCCOB’s disaster relief and chick-rearing efforts.

African penguins

Over the past decade there has been a dramatic drop in the population for African Penguins. In 2006, there was estimated to be over 100,000 African Penguins in South Africa. Today it is estimated to be less than 50,000 birds in Namibia and South Africa.

Why have numbers dropped so drastically?  The answer is not very simple since there are several different levels of influence on the population.  But two areas to focus would be competition for food with the fishing industry and the oil industry.

Competition For Food
The Benguela marine ecosystem is one of the richest in sardines and anchovies in the world and located off the coast of South Africa and the breeding colonies of the African Penguins.  This is a main food choice for African Penguins.  However, there is competition for food for the African Penguins; this area is also heavily fished by commercial fisheries. The competition with the fisheries and warming sea waters, forces the birds to travel further out to sea to catch fish in order to feed the chicks on the nest.

The additional travel for the adult birds only compounds the situations, expending more energy requires more food for them and their chicks. This means more time in the ocean, and the threat of predators, both at sea and on land.  At sea, the adults can fall prey to Cape fur seals and sharks.  On land, the chicks and eggs can be eaten by Kelp Gulls and small carnivores that have access to mainland colonies.

The Oil Industry
The oil industry has just increased their goals for production and the construction of more oil rigs in the region.  In 2000, the MV Treasure sank in Table Bay, South Africa.  This event caused the oiling of over 19,000 African Penguins.  Crude oil is dangerous for the penguins; it breaks down the natural water-proofing of the birds while at sea.  The oil causes them to become water-logged, hypothermic, disoriented and sometimes not able to make it back to shore.  Once on shore, the penguins will begin to preen themselves; ingesting the oil, becoming ill and potentially dying if not helped.  Rescuing oiled African penguins is a regular occurrence in South Africa.
Making A Difference
The WAVE Foundation at the Newport Aquarium promotes and raises funds to support SANCCOB (The South African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds) in Cape Town.  SANCCOB rescues, rehabilitates and releases approximately 1,000 African Penguins a year affected by oil.  The staff and volunteers of SANCCOB dedicate themselves every day to the African Penguins and other sea birds.  They need our support.

The Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) initiated a program in 2015 called SAFE (Saving Animals from Extinction); targeting 10 endangered species around the world.  Collaborative Conservation will identify and prioritize the needs of a species and build a 3-year Conservation Action Plan (CAP).

Ric Urban, Chief Conservation Officer at Newport Aquarium, was appointed by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) to be the Program Coordinator for the AZA SAFE African Penguin Individual Identification Project.

Ric Urban, Chief Conservation Officer at Newport Aquarium, was appointed by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) to be the Program Coordinator for the AZA SAFE African Penguin Individual Identification Project.

The Newport Aquarium is playing an integral part of this conservation plan.  Passive Integrated Transponders (PIT) Tags are being used as part of the Individual Identification Project that the Newport Aquarium is responsible for coordinating.  A collaboration of AZA Partners – The Racine Zoo, Northeastern Zoo of Wisconsin, the Maryland Zoo, Sea World and the WAVE Foundation at the Newport Aquarium as well as our South African Partners are working together to individually identify 10% of the world’s population of African Penguins over the next 3 years. PIT Tagging will allow biologists to assess longevity and survival, nest site, natal site and mate fidelity, inter-colony movement, and many other metrics that will be helpful to management of the species.

Now is the time to Act – you can make a difference during African Penguin Awareness Week.  Everyone can contribute to the conservation of African Penguins by visiting the Newport Aquarium.  By visiting the Newport Aquarium Gift Shop, you can make a contribution to “Dollars to Conservation” when you purchase anything in the store, or you can just make a donation at the desk.  All the proceeds during this week to “Dollars for Conservation” will go directly to support SANCCOB and the rescue, rehabilitation and release of African Penguins.

The African Penguin is an endangered species, threatened with extinction that needs our help.  You can learn more about how to contribute by visiting, www.wavefoundation.org or www.AZASavingSpecies.org

Join River Sweep 2016 – June 18th, 2016

Once a year, nearly 3,000 miles of the Ohio River are patrolled by volunteers for the Annual Ohio River Sweep event.  Each year thousands of volunteers gather near their local tributary or the banks of the Ohio River and pick up the trash that has accumulated during the high water levels of winter. Ohio River  bank

From the headwaters of the Ohio River near Pittsburgh, PA, to Cairo, IL, volunteers in 2015 covered 86 counties in 6 states along the Ohio River; Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana and Illinois.

The Annual Ohio River Sweep began in 1989 and since then volunteers have contributed to the management of the health of the river by removing tons of trash and debris along the shores of 7 tributaries and the Ohio River. The WAVE Foundation at the Newport Aquarium started getting involved in this annual cleanup in 2000. Riversweep ORSANCO

Join Newport Aquarium and the WAVE Foundation at the Newport Aquarium on June 18th. Team up with the many volunteers in this community effort to cleanup the banks of the Ohio River in front of Newport Aquarium. For more information on being part of this year’s cleanup, visit OhioRiverSweep.org.  and creating a great place for our families to enjoy the river.

Endangered Species Day: Rescued Loggerhead Sea Turtle Enters New Tank

This Endangered Species Day, Newport Aquarium celebrates a success story as the rescued loggerhead sea turtle hatchling, Shack, is introduced to a new, more spacious home within Newport Aquarium. Shack was just moved into the bigger saltwater tank outside Shark Ray Bay Theater, in the Shore Gallery. He entered the tank to the excitement and applause of a group of young children, and swam down to the front of the tank, giving the children an up close view as he explored his new home.

Shack now has more room to dive and grow as he awaits his next journey to return back to the ocean, off the coast of North Carolina. He was rescued last October, as a hatchling on the beach in Shackleford Shoal, N.C. He weighed 73 grams – about the size of an egg from your refrigerator—and could fit in the palm of your hand. He now weighs about 2.5 pounds.

Biologist, Jen Hazeres, with Shack, shortly after he was rescued.

Biologist, Jen Hazeres, with Shack, shortly after he was rescued. Shack weighed 73 grams.

Loggerhead sea turtle hatchling

Newport Aquarium biologist, Jen Hazeres, with loggerhead sea turtle, Shack, before he enters his new, bigger tank. Shack now weighs 2.5 pounds.

“Moving Shack into the bigger tank is part of his development and enrichment,” said Jen Hazeres, biologist at Newport Aquarium. Hazeres was part of the team of biologists that rescued Shack, and brought him back to be fostered at Newport Aquarium. “He’ll be able to dive deeper. We want to get him used to a more natural environment before he’s released back out into the wild in October.”

Saving The Species
Scientists say only one out of 1,000 hatchlings has a chance of making it to adulthood. All sea turtles are protected under the Endangered Species Act. Loggerhead sea turtles are listed as “vulnerable” on the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List of Threatened Species.

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Biologists at Newport Aquarium work closely with the North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knolls Shores to rehabilitate a young loggerhead sea turtle each year. Newport Aquarium biologists travel to North Carolina each fall to release the previous year’s hatchling and pick up a new sea turtle that needs our help. The WAVE Foundation’s Aquatic Conservation Fund supports the satellite tagging of our turtles before their release.

Why Tracking Is Important
Satellite tracking is extremely important in determining sea turtle migratory patterns, feeding and nesting data. We hope to learn a lot from their travels. You can go online and see where the rescued sea turtles go at www.wavefoundation.org.

Loggerhead sea turtle nest

Only one out of 1,000 hatchling turtles will grow up to be adults. Some sea turtles can lay more than 100 eggs each time they nest. However, a lot of things can stop a sea turtle from laying her eggs. They’re accidentally captured in fisheries. They’re also hunted in many coastal communities, especially in Central America.

How To Help

  1. Help by keeping the beaches clean when you go on vacation. Pack up your beach chairs, towels, trash and other items at night so the sea turtles have an easy path to their nest.
  2. Turn off your porch lights at the vacation home during the nesting season. The artificial lighting confuses the female sea turtles from nesting. Instead, turtles will choose a less-than-optimal nesting spot, which affects the chances of producing a successful nest. Also, near-shore lighting can cause sea turtle hatchlings to become disoriented when they are born.
  3. Reduce the need to use plastic bags. They end up in our oceans and look like floating jellyfish to sea turtles. Use reusable bags for your grocery items.

WAVE Foundation at Newport Aquarium, Thomas More College welcome third speaker in marine biology lecture series

WAVE Foundation at Newport Aquarium and Thomas More College welcome third speaker in the Marine Biology & Conservation Lecture Series. The lecture series is part of Thomas More College’s partnership with Newport Aquarium and the WAVE Foundation, which formally began in August 2014 when the school launched its new marine biology degree program, the first of its kind in the state of Kentucky.

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Dr. Lucy Hawkes, physiological ecologist, is the final featured speaker in the Marine Biology & Conservation Lecture Series May 18th 6 p.m. – 9:30 p.m.

Dr. Lucy Hawkes is a physiological ecologist whose work focuses on the costs and drivers of migration in vertebrates using emergent technology. Her lecture theme is “Thirty-Four Years of Tracking Sea Turtles: What We Now Know and How We Can Use it in Conservation.”

We asked her a few questions about her background, what you can do to help sea turtles, and what to expect in the upcoming lecture series.

What is your background? How did you first become interested in sea turtles?

I graduated from the University of Plymouth, UK, in 2001 with a degree in Marine Biology and I wanted to get out and do something useful with my degree. I looked widely for volunteering and fieldwork experiences and applied to a seahorse conservation project as well as a sea turtle conservation project in Cyprus (in the eastern Mediterranean) with a UK based organization but didn’t get either position. I didn’t give up though as I had wanted to be a “proper” marine biologist since about the age of 10. I also wasn’t specifically seeking a career working with sea turtles, but I had written one of my final year reports on them during my degree and thought they were really cool because they were so tropical, so enigmatic and SO old! It was just so exotic to someone in a rainy lab in England! I kept looking and then came across an internship at the Bald Head Island Conservancy, North Carolina, monitoring sea turtles nesting on the beaches of Cape Fear. I headed to North Carolina in May 2001 and that’s where it all began.

What is the single most important thing someone can do in the Midwest to help protect sea turtles?

We know for almost all populations of sea turtles that the single biggest threat to them is being caught accidentally in fishing nets at sea. This can be in all sorts of fishing operations – long lining for tuna, trawling for shrimp and scallops, and gill netting for fish. And it’s not just turtles that get caught in fishing nets, dolphins, seals and all sorts of “non-target” fish (fish the fishermen aren’t trying to catch) get caught and injured or killed too. So, I think that everyone should make a pledge to eat a lot less fish. Keep fish for only special occasions, for example. It’s a controversial debate but it is very clear that almost all fish stocks across the planet are overexploited and we all need to eat less fish, and by doing so, we can also reduce the numbers of turtles being killed! Personally, I don’t eat any seafood at all, and I LOVE cod and shrimp, so it’s a big sacrifice for me!

What will you talk about at the WAVE Foundation Lecture series on May 18th?

I was really lucky to be the first person to track several populations of sea turtles that we otherwise didn’t know anything about. We would wave goodbye to the nesting turtles of North Carolina, for example, and not really have much of a clue where they would be, come the winter. Actually, tracking turtles started much earlier than that, with great innovators in the 1980s, and since that time we have made lots more discoveries to the point that sea turtles are now probably the best understood of all of the marine vertebrates. I’ll tell the story of how we managed this amazing feat, with some entertaining stories on the way and some lessons for the future!

Tickets for the lecture series are $20 for the public, or $15 for Newport Aquarium Annual Passholders and students. Registration for this event is available at wavefoundation.org/education/lecture-series.

On World Penguin Day—and Every Day – AZA-Accredited Aquariums and Zoos are Working to Save Species

Today is World Penguin Day, and in honor of these species, aquariums and zoos accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) are raising awareness to help the future of this beloved species.African penguins 2

AZA-accredited aquariums and zoos work not only for the penguins in their care, but also actively participate in efforts to help save them in the wild and to contribute to the scientific understanding of these species.

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Paula the African penguin, pauses for a photo opp in front of Shark Wall.

“Here at Newport Aquarium, we engage our guests daily through a penguin parade and our penguin encounters; we educate them about the plight of the African penguin. Hopefully through our efforts, we can create awareness that will save the penguins,” said Ric Urban, Chief Conservation Officer at Newport Aquarium.

There are six penguin species at Newport Aquarium – African, King, Gentoo, Macaroni, Southern Rockhopper and Chinstrap. Currently, all 18 of the world’s penguin species are legally protected from hunting and egg collection, but they continue to face threats. In particular, African penguins have seen a large decrease in population size and are listed as Endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species™. In the last 100 years, African penguin breeding pairs, which numbered almost one million at the beginning of the 20th century, have dropped to approximately 25,000 – a 97 percent decrease. Reasons for this decline include oil spills; a loss of nest burrow sites due to historical harvest of penguin droppings in breeding colonies; and a reduction in prey due to commercial fishing.

Between 2010 and 2014, more than 30 AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums took part in or supporting field conservation projects benefitting African penguins. During those five years, the AZA community invested almost a half million dollars in African penguin conservation.

AZA-accredited aquariums and zoos frequently provide financial support to field conservation partners such as Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds (SANCCOB), which provides high-quality rehabilitation and veterinary services to African penguins and other seabirds in need. SANCCOB also has a strong focus on raising awareness about endangered seabirds through conservation education programs and research projects, many of which have an AZA-accredited member as a collaborator.

Penguin Palooza

Newport Aquarium’s Penguin Palooza includes five species of cold-weather penguins including the Gentoo, King, Macaroni, Southern Rockhopper and Chinstrap.

In 2012, Ric Urban and WAVE Conservation Manager, Alle Barber (Alle Foster at the time), joined a small group of scientists on a penguin conservation trip to Peru to help protect endangered seabirds. Read more about their journey here.

Additionally, AZA aquariums and zoos, and other like-minded organizations, are collaborating through a bold effort focused on saving species from extinction and restoring them in their natural ranges. AZA SAFE: Saving Animals From Extinction combines the power of engaging 183-million annual AZA-accredited aquarium and zoo visitors with the collective expertise of these facilities and their conservation partners to save signature species, including the African penguin. SAFE also provides a unique platform for AZA-accredited aquariums and zoos to increase the impact of their field conservation efforts and conservation contributions.

“World Penguin Day is the perfect day for people to get involved. While the number of African penguins has drastically declined, the good news is that by taking conservation actions, we can still make a difference in saving these species. However, we can’t do this alone, and we hope that others who care deeply about penguins–and the other species connected to their ecosystem—will join us in helping them,” said Urban.

Penguin painting

African penguins just finished painting these masterpieces, all of which you can purchase in the Newport Aquarium gift shop. Proceeds help the WAVE Foundation.

To help make a difference on World Penguin Day and every day, the public is encouraged to:

  • Purchase a one-of-a-kind hands-on experience with these amazing birds through a Penguin Encounter
  • Purchase original penguin artwork from our in-house Picassos – our African penguins created these masterpieces that you can order online or buy in Newport Aquarium’s gift shop
  • Buy sustainable seafood. Check out Seafood Watch for sustainable food selections.
  • Share messages about African penguins on social media to help raise awareness. Be sure to use the hashtag #SavingSpecies

For more information about AZA SAFE and how to help African penguins and other species, please visit: http://azaanimals.org/savingspecies/.

Embrace Sustainability for National Seafood Month

By Madison Wallace, Newport Aquarium PR Aidesushi-bazooka-5

NEWPORT, Ky. — October is National Seafood Month! Our nation’s love of seafood is linked to increased brain health and a healthier economy, along with being slightly problematic to ocean conservation.

The average American eats 16 pounds of fish every year, making the United States the third highest country globally for seafood consumption.

While fishing is one of the world’s oldest professions, the extent to which we are depleting our oceans’ species and marine life is unprecedented. In the past decades, an estimated 70 percent of marine species have been added to the list of “fully depleted” species, according to the United Nations.

This is happening as a result of overfishing.

The commercial demand for fish is disrupting ecosystems at a rate too rapid for the population to replenish. Fish populations of cod, haddock and flounder have fallen by as much as 95 percent in the last decade alone.

When you read “National Seafood Month”, you might have begun to plan your next late night sushi fix; however, you might want to reconsider.underwater-tuna-world

Five of the eight species of tuna are listed as “at risk for extinction”. Bluefin tuna can sell for hundreds of thousands of dollars, and this makes them extremely valuable, especially to the sushi industry.

If tuna were to go extinct, many marine ecosystems would lose an apex predator, thus destabilizing the entire food chain, and resulting in a multitude of smaller fish varieties overrunning particular areas. This would undermine the foundations of microorganisms that make our oceanic ecosystems sustainable.

iphone6_SFW_appThe WAVE Foundation, Newport Aquarium’s nonprofit partner, is a promoter of Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch Program.

Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch is a program that allows seafood connoisseurs to identify how sustainable the seafood they consume is.

Seafood Watch is available as an app as well as online, and asks the user a series of questions to determine where their seafood came from and how overfished the species is. It then offers suggestions and gives ratings based on how overfished a species is.

“Our choices matter”, proclaims the opening screen of the Seafood Watch app. This statement is fitting.

For National Seafood Month, don’t stop eating seafood out of guilt, focus on making sure your choices are supporting the type of world you would like to live in.

It might seem normal to order seafood without a second thought to how it was caught, but Seafood Watch offers an alternative.

We all can take part in reversing the damages of overfishing; simple things like downloading the Seafood Watch smartphone app or asking your waiter “Do you serve sustainable seafood?” the next time you dine out can make a big difference.

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Newport Aquarium has showcased thousands of animals from around the world in a million gallons of water since May 15, 1999. Named one of the best aquariums in the U.S. by Travel Channel and USA Today, Newport Aquarium is a Herschend Family Entertainment company and an accredited member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. Newport Aquarium is open to the public 365 days a year and located across the Ohio River from downtown Cincinnati at Newport on the Levee.

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