North Carolina Aquariums
Fish viewing may be cumbersome for some, but viewing a majestic number and variations of them in a single place does make viewing a desirable experience. North Carolina is notable for the appreciation and conservation of the state’s aquatic environment, thus accounts for the setting up of the North Carolina Aquariums in 1976, initially as the North Carolina Marine Resources Centers before its name was changed in 1986. Its establishment wasn’t just made for an exotic display of the diversity of marine life in North Carolina but it seeks to promote awareness and understanding to locales and visitors the vast natural resources of the oceans, rivers and other aquatic environments of the state.
The North Carolina Aquariums are accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums and are a division of the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources. It has three facilities located on Roanoke Island, Pine Knoll Shores and Fort Fisher. The North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher is located in Kura Beach and aims to educate the people about the water of the Cape Fear Region. It features different galleries. First is the Cape Fear Conservatory, the visitors’ first stop. Replicating freshwater life, the gallery features frogs, bass, catfish, box turtles, and American alligators and venomous snakes living in a massive display of tree-filled atrium, streams, and ponds. The Coastal Waters Gallery gives visitors the chance to learn sea urchins, horseshoe crabs and other creatures of the outcrop surf zone on a hands-on basis. An indoor salt marsh and sea horse habitat are featured in the Masonboro Inlet Jetty.
A perfect view of pufferfish, hogfish, octopus, jellyfish, and corals is featured in the Sharkstooth Ledge of the Open Oceans Gallery. The 24-foot-deep Cape Fear Shoals is the largest saltwater exhibit that offers a multi-level display of large sharks, stingrays, and moray eels. Featuring sea creatures in the Indo-Pacific Region is the Exotic Aquatic Displays which includes cuttlefish, red lionfish, scorpionfish and lionfish in a wide array of species. The aquarium also includes the 550-gallon Pacific Reef Display which features corals, anemones, wrasses and other fish species. In 2002, Fort Fisher was reopened after three years of renovation and expansion. Located at Bogue Banks is the aquarium at the Pine Knoll Shores featuring aquatic animals of North Carolina.
Some of its famous attractions are its huge species including the nine-foot sand tiger sharks, a six-foot green moray eel, a four-foot goliath grouper. Pine Knoll is known for its centerpiece exhibit, the Living Shipwreck garnering a volume of 306,000 gallons. It is actually a replica of the German Submarine, U-352, which serves as a habitat for a school of fishes. The aquarium is also home to two river otters named Neuse and Pungo which constantly amazes visitors. The aquarium’s Sea Turtle Odyssey Exhibit serves as a rehabilitation center for sea turtles. The Tidal Touch Pool and Skate and Ray Encounter are hands-on exhibits that feature sea invertebrates and rays, respectively. Aside from the visits, the aquarium also offers a variety of ways to enhance people’s awareness and interest in aquatic life. The North Carolina Aquarium holds other activities such as photo contests, journals and a multitude of activities.