Save The Bay’s family-friendly Exploration Center and Aquarium in Newport closed on January 1st to the public for the installation of a new, accessible, shark-and-skate touch tank entitled “Sharks and Skates of Narragansett Bay.”
The new front-of-house exhibit—part of a larger Shark and Skate Conservation Education Initiative made possible in part by the Institute for Museum and Library Services and the Alletta Morris McBean Charitable Trust—will house adult and juvenile dogfish sharks, catsharks and skates. Through the initiative, Save The Bay’s aquarists and educators will connect visitors to the wonders of sharks and skates and their important role in local and global marine ecosystems.
“As a hands-on learning center, our touch-tank exhibits are one of the most valuable experiences we offer to our guests,” said Save The Bay Director of Education Bridget Kubis Prescott in a press release. “We see the impact of our hands-on exhibits on visitors of all ages every day at the Exploration Center and Aquarium. The new tank will not only allow greater numbers of visitors to engage with the tank at a time and grant us the opportunity to offer new programming, but it will also be situated on the ground floor of the aquarium, providing visitors of all abilities easy access to these amazing animals.”
The Sharks and Skate Conservation Education Initiative will allow visitors to examine unfertilized “mermaid’s purses,” or egg cases, before observing developing sharks and skates in special backlit tanks; observe shark and skate adaptations and behavior; visit shark and skate predator-and-prey exhibits; and engage with non-living artifacts, including shark jaws, teeth and fossilized feces.
“We’re looking forward to strengthening our ability to inspire lifelong science learners with the initiative,” said Save The Bay Aquarium Manager and Lead Aquarist Adam Kovarsky in the release. “The new tank and associated programming will help visitors understand these extraordinary creatures and the vital role they play in the ecology of Narragansett Bay and Rhode Island Sound. The new tank will also allow us to increase the productivity of our breed-and-release program.”
Several years ago, with support from the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Save The Bay’s Exploration Center staff began a small-scale program to breed and release sharks and skates. To date, the program has allowed Save The Bay to release 20 sharks and 50 skates in local waters. Thanks to the success of this program, Save The Bay has earned national recognition for its expertise in raising sharks and skates for release in the Atlantic Ocean.
The Exploration Center and Aquarium, Rhode Island’s only aquarium featuring species found in and sourced from Narragansett Bay, welcomes 30,000 visitors and 3,500 students and teachers from across southern New England every year. The animals on display in the Center’s exhibits are sustainably-sourced and enjoy a short stay at the Center—allowing guests the opportunity to connect with and understand local species and habitats—before being released back into the wild.
The Exploration Center and Aquarium will re-open in February 2020 to unveil the “Sharks and Skates of Narragansett Bay” exhibit and the Sharks and Skate Conservation Education Initiative.