Sunday, November 30, 2014

Volunteer of the Month: November

Every month our Volunteer office sorts through piles of nominations from supervisors and honors one of our volunteers for their truly stupendous efforts. Meet our latest Volunteer of the Month.

At the New England Aquarium, we have a lot of popular, charismatic animals that visitors flock to. We also have many incredible and understated animals that often go unnoticed. This month we’re awarding a Visitor Education volunteer who increases the impact of all of the animals in our exhibits by bringing attention to animals that otherwise might be overlooked by visitors!

Congratulations to Christine Van Gemert!

Here’s what her supervisor, Sam Herman had to say:

 Christine has been a volunteer for Visitor Education for 2 years. During that time she’s really made her mark on Fridays. She is a positive force both on and off the floor. I look forward to working with her as well as chatting with her behind the scenes. She knows her areas of growth and actively steps up to work on them. Beyond just the normal job duties, she also adds to floor interpretation. She’s brought in multiple models for use both at the Edge of the Sea touch tank and at gallery carts. She loves to interpret less-popular animals (ask her about parrotfish!) and really engages well with our visitors. Her calm demeanor works well in peaking our visitors’ curiosity and inspiring them to become ocean stewards once they leave the Aquarium. Fridays are lucky to have her!

So next time you’re at the Aquarium on A Friday, seek her out to learn something new!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

193 Sea Turtles Airlifted from Cape Cod to Florida

Cape Cod is in the midst of an unprecedented sea turtle stranding season. This media release pertains to the transport of turtles by the US Coast Guard.  See more pictures of sea turtle rescue season in our Animal Care Facility on the Rescue Blog.

To disperse a seeming tidal wave of stranded sea turtles washing up on Cape Cod, the New England Aquarium arranged for 243 re-warmed Kemp’s Ridley and green sea turtles to be flown  to Florida and North Carolina Tuesday.

A rescued Kemp's ridley sea turtle in treatment at the Aquarium's Animal Care Center in Quincy, Mass.

Before dawn, 193 critically endangered Kemp’s ridley sea turtles were netted from the pools of the Aquarium’s sea turtle hospital in Quincy, MA, loaded into padded boxes and transported to Otis Air National Guard Base on Cape Cod where a Coast Guard plane transported the 3-10 pound, black shelled turtles to Orlando where they were distributed to seven marine animal rehab facilities in north and central Florida. At mid-morning, 50 Kemp’s and green sea turtles were also pulled and driven to suburban Norwood Airport where a private pilot flew them to North Carolina for distribution to the aquariums there. These turtles will spend at least a couple of months in the various rehab settings before being released back into  the ocean.

The flights temporarily freed up critical tank space at the Aquarium’s hospital for more turtles that have been rescued and have been waiting at the Massachusetts Audubon Sanctuary at Wellfleet Bay. Within two hours of the second flight departing Massachusetts, 50 more sea turtles were transferred to the sea turtle hospital from the Outer Cape nature center. The turtles remaining at the Audubon sanctuary have been under the care of an Aquarium veterinarian on site. After a week of nearly a hundred turtles washing up daily, Tuesday’s mild weather gave rescuers a break as just a few live animals were found.

Here's a quick look at a rescued sea turtle's journey to the Aquarium's Animal Care Center.

Only three weeks into the eight week long sea turtle stranding season, 2014 has already smashed  prior records into oblivion. Since November 3, Mass Audubon had recovered 976 live and dead sea turtles. Just over 600 of those turtles arrived alive. Including today’s flights, 328 turtles have been re-warmed, stabilized and  transported to rehab facilities in Georgia, North and South Carolina,  Florida, Pennsylvania and  Massachusetts. 180 turtles are in residence at the Quincy sea turtle hospital as of Tuesday night and about 100 turtles remain in Wellfleet. The previous record for live turtles treated during a season was 242, and the average over the past decade was about 90! There are 4-5 weeks remaining in the stranding season, and regional sea turtle biologists are in disbelief and amazement at the number of cold-stunned juvenile sea turtles that have been recovered and possibly remain in Cape Cod Bay.

The operational challenges have been immense for both the Aquarium and Mass Audubon, but the outpouring of support and help from trained volunteers to other marine rehab organizations to NOAA has been tremendous.

A rescued sea turtle is prepared for its intake exam at the Aquarium's Animal Care Center in Quincy, MA

This historic and daunting stranding event has a possible silver lining. If these endangered turtles did not strand, they would die, but also the unprecedented number is a probable indicator that high percentages of the hatchling classes over the last two to five years have survived, and that should aid in the slow recovery of the most endangered sea turtle population in the world.

Monday, November 17, 2014

45 Lucky and Endangered Sea Turtles Rescued on Cape Cod

The weather recipe for a mass stranding of sea turtles on Cape Cod starts with chilling water temperatures to 50 degrees, add steady northwest winds over a couple of days and then whisk in wind speeds in excess of 20 miles per hour, creating wave heights that can carry the largely inert, endangered marine reptiles ashore. This past weekend, the weather chef got carried away as forty-five live sea turtles were rescued on the beaches of six Cape Cod Bay towns from Dennis to Truro.

A recent arrival to the Aquarium's sea turtle rescue hospital

On Saturday, seventeen critically endangered Kemp’s ridley sea turtles were rescued by the dedicated staff and volunteers of Mass Audubon’s Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary and were then transported to the New England Aquarium’s sea turtle hospital in Quincy, MA, for life saving re-warming and treatment of other medical problems. On Sunday, twenty-eight more live and lucky sea turtles were rescued on the Cape. That number was the highest for a single day since 1999.

When the turtles first arrive they are given subcutaneous fluid depending on what their bloodwork shows.

Instinctively, we know that marine animal strandings are an undesirable and life threatening event, particularly for dolphins, pilot whales and large whales. Ironically, on Cape Cod in November, stranding for a sea turtle is its only life saving option. Sea turtles do not intentionally strand, but with body temperatures in the low 50’s and high 40’s, these sea turtles no longer have the ability to migrate south. If they fail to wash up, they will eventually die from hypothermia as water temperatures drop into the 30’s and low 40’s in late November and December.

A picture from Mass Audubon's Facebook page documenting their record day of intake

Strangely enough, the cutting, northwest winds of late autumn that cruelly remind New Englanders of the oncoming winter are potentially life-saving for sea turtles. Monday’s warming weather with the wind switching from the southwest with heavy gusts in excess of 40 miles per hour is dangerous for the remaining, floating sea turtles as it could blow many of them out of Cape Cod Bay into the open ocean. Tuesday and Wednesday are more favorable for the sea turtles as northwest winds are predicted to resume as we cool down again.

Volunteers with Mass Audubon walk blustery Cape Cod beaches like this one looking for stranded sea turtles

Over 20 years, the New England Aquarium and Mass Audubon have rescued, rehabilitated and released more than 1000 endangered and threatened sea turtles.

Head over to the Rescue Blog for more about sea turtle stranding:

Sunday, November 16, 2014

The delicious side of canned seafood

Barton Seaver
Barton Seaver, Esquire magazine’s 2009 Chef of the Year, National Geographic Oceans Fellow and author of For Cod and Country cookbook, is the Sustainability Fellow at the New England Aquarium—a role that lets him share ways families can bring sustainable seafood to the dinner table. 

Read Part 1 for more on the why canned seafood should be considered for your next meal. In Part 2 of this series, he offers some ideas on how a simple can of seafood can be ocean-friendly, sustainable and tasty! 

While fresh seafood can be a bit of a hit-or-miss in terms of the quality available, canned seafood is always consistent. Much of the time the fish are processed within hours of being caught, locking in freshness and quality. And the health benefits of canned seafood are equal to those of fresh seafood. In fact, I would say they are greater in that having a consistent go-to source of fish encourages increased consumption of this heart-healthy food. Having such convenient and cost-effective protein available at a moment’s notice enables us to reduce our consumption of other less healthy proteins. After a long day of work with little time to plan, shop for, and prepare a meal, there's nothing more welcoming than creating a protein and omega-3 packed meal made from pantry staples to sustain you and your family.

Sustainably-harvested and ocean-friendly salmon can be canned and enjoyed  

When shopping for canned seafood you will find a huge variety of options. Keep in mind that while canned species tend towards environmentally-friendly options, sustainability should still be considered. Educating yourself with the sustainability guidelines from the New England Aquarium will help to clarify your decisions. Other factors to consider are products that are packaged in BPA-free containers. (BPA is a plastic liner within cans that is considered a health risk.) Also, look for products labeled low sodium—you can always add a little seasoning such as fresh herbs and spices to accentuate flavor.

When it comes to oil-pack vs. water-pack, the choice is up to you. I prefer to use oil pack as I find that the oil takes on the rich flavor of the seafood and becomes a delicious addition to the final dish. When using water-packed seafood, more often than not there is no use for the water and so it, and the flavor it has absorbed, goes down the drain.

Pink salmon cakes | Photo courtesy Barton Seaver

While canned products are traditionally maligned as convenience food and not fit for fine cooking, I respectfully disagree with this interpretation. Canned pink salmon makes for excellent salmon cakes when mixed with fresh herbs and whole grain mustard. I prefer to eat pink salmon with the bones and skin as they offer the additional benefit of high calcium. The all-too-familiar canned tuna gets a new turn in the spotlight when paired with a mayonnaise spiked with the delicious oil from the can and the enticing flavors of nutmeg and celery. Smoked mussels make for a fine New England-style chowder, chunky with potatoes and milky broth. The convenience is easy enough to make this a new snow-day lunchtime favorite. Sardines are once again a welcome addition to the table when accentuated with the crunch of thin shaved fennel and radishes for a healthy and easy lunch. And anchovies disappear into a rush of compliments as your family devours a pasta sauce rich in flavor and omega-3s.

Photo: Katie Stoops via National Geographic

Choosing and preparing sustainable seafood does not have to be as mysterious as the deep, wine-dark sea. Some of the most delicious options for quick, easy, and healthy meals may already be in your pantry. So the next time you are in a pinch and need a quick meal, remember to think inside the can.

Learn more about the Aquarium's Sustainable Seafood Programs by exploring our ocean-friendly seafood guide or treating yourself to a Celebrate Seafood dinner event.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Just for Members: Holiday Theater Discount


Our members have some great perks in and around the Aquarium—discounts at the Gift ShopWhale Watch and IMAX theatre, express admission and member-exclusive events.

Sometimes we connect our members with special discounts to the theater, too!

New England Aquarium members can receive 30%-off tickets to Irving Berlin's White Christmas! Visit and enter code HOLIDAYS to buy your discounted tickets.

This discount applies to select tickets and performances (12/16 7:30p, 12/17 7:30p, 12/18 7:30p, 12/19 8:00p, 12/21 6:30p, 12/23 7:30p, 12/24 2:00p, 12/28 6:30p) while supplies last.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Sustainable seafood with a shelf life

Barton Seaver
Barton Seaver, Esquire magazine’s 2009 Chef of the Year, National Geographic Oceans Fellow and author of For Cod and Country cookbook, is the Sustainability Fellow at the New England Aquarium. In this role, he periodically discusses ways families can bring sustainable seafood to the dinner table. 

In Part 1 of this series of posts, he shares a surprising way that families can create a quick, healthy, sustainable, ocean-friendly meal.

As Sustainability Fellow at the Aquarium, I am often asked “What should be for dinner?” Unfortunately the answer is not always so easy. Sustainable seafood is a complicated topic, one that depends on myriad variables, making a trip to the seafood counter feel like one of those SAT questions about two trains leaving the station at different times. Factor in the cost of fresh seafood per pound and it’s understandable why some households are reluctant to experiment with cooking seafood dishes or adding them to their regular routine.

However, sometimes the best options are not in the fresh case. Fresh seafood has seasons of availability, there are price fluctuations, there are times when what’s in the case just doesn’t inspire! The unpredictable nature of our busy lives can also make it difficult to plan a meal with highly perishable fresh seafood. Luckily there are other aisles in which to look for the delicious bounty of the sea.

Enter the humble can.

Canned fish. Find it in your grocery store! | Photo: Mk2010 via Wikimedia Commons 

Canned seafood represents some of the best values in any aisle of the grocery store and also some of the most delicious ingredients to be found anywhere. Canned products offer a number of virtues that benefit your wallet, your taste buds and our oceans. A quick inventory of commonly canned species reveals a who’s-who of the top of the sustainability green list—sardines, mussels, clams, oysters, crab, herring, mackerel, pink and sockeye salmons, and yes, even some species of tuna.

There are other major benefits to eating canned seafood, the first of which is that it is accessible to everyone, everywhere. Even gas stations often carry a couple options making this affordable protein the ultimate convenience food. The extended shelf life continues that convenience factor all the way from the time of purchase until the moment your family sits to dinner.

Stay tuned to part two of this series for some ideas on how a simple can of seafood can be ocean-friendly, sustainable and tasty! Learn more about the Aquarium's Sustainable Seafood Programs by exploring our ocean-friendly seafood guide or treating yourself to a Celebrate Seafood dinner event.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Sea Turtle Stranding Season Starts on Cape Cod

November is the beginning of the sea turtle stranding season on Cape Cod, and this weekend nine critically endangered Kemp’s ridley sea turtles washed up on Outer Cape beaches, almost all in Eastham. The 4-9-pound black-shelled turtles were rescued by the dedicated staff and volunteers from the Massachusetts Audubon Sanctuary at Wellfleet Bay. The turtles were then transported to the New England’s Aquarium’s sea turtle hospital in Quincy, MA.

See more pictures of these first turtles to arrive at the sea turtle hospital on the Rescue Blog!

An endangered Kemp’s ridley sea turtle covered in algae is evaluated at in-take at the New England Aquarium’s sea turtle hospital in Quincy, MA. The turtle stranded in Eastham on Cape Cod over the weekend due to prolonged hypothermia.

Most of the lethargic turtles were covered with accumulated algae from lack of activity due to low body temperatures in the mid-50’s. Since sea turtle are reptiles and cold-blooded, they assume the water temperature around them. Their preferred body temperature is in the 70’s, and Aquarium biologists and veterinarians will slowly re-warm the turtles about 5 degrees per day over the next three days.

Once re-warmed, many of the turtles will have other medical problems due to the slow chilling and minimal eating over the last several weeks. Malnutrition, pneumonia, blood disorders and orthopedic issues are all common problems that require prolonged rehab of anywhere from 3 to 10 months. 85 to 90% of the live rescued turtle survive and are released back into the wild, usually in the warm waters off of Florida or Georgia over the winter.

A slowly re-warming sea turtle that stranded on Cape Cod over the weekend due to hypothermia gets a little physical therapy with a supervised swim at New England Aquarium’s sea turtle hospital in Quincy.

Kemp’s ridleys are the most endangered sea turtle in the world. As juveniles, they migrate annually to the waters off of Cape Cod to feed on crabs. Many of the young animals end up in Cape Cod Bay on the north side of this huge, backward L shaped peninsula. Many of the young animals are unable to figure out the tricky navigation out of the bay and slowly become hypothermic as sea temperatures slowly decline during the autumn. Wave activity churned up by northwest winds washes the inert turtles ashore.

In an average year, 90 to 100 sea turtles of three different species will strand on Cape Cod and the Islands due to cold stunning. The record was 242 in 2012. So far, this year 11 Kemp’s ridleys have stranded with the first arriving from Martha’s Vineyard November 3. The season could last until mid-December depending on weather.

Over 20 years, the New England Aquarium and Mass Audubon at Wellfleet Bay have rescued, rehabilitated and released more than 1000 endangered and threatened sea turtles.

If someone finds a turtle, please call Mass Audubon at Wellfleet Bay at 508-349-2615.