Thursday, July 24, 2014

Massachusetts Passes Ban on Shark Fin Trade

Flanked by a coalition of ocean protection and animal welfare organizations at the New England Aquarium, Governor Deval Patrick signed into law today a ban on the possession and sale of shark fins in Massachusetts, an historic milestone deemed critical in the decades-long push to close an economic loophole that has led to a massive decline in shark populations.

The signing ceremony took place at the Aquarium overlooking Boston Harbor

"With the passing of this law Massachusetts builds upon its long history of animal protection and environmental stewardship," said Governor Patrick. "I congratulate the passionate animal welfare and ocean conservation leaders who worked together to ensure the conservation of sharks and our oceans for generations to come."

Governor Deval Patrick with 9-year-old Sean Lesniak (far left) and his siblings,
Aquarium president Nigella Hillgarth and Aquarium Overseer Chef Ming Tsai

The bill, also known as, “An act relative to ocean ecology and shark protection,” passed the Massachusetts House and Senate with bipartisan support last week, making Massachusetts the ninth state along with Guam, American Samoa and the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands to restrict market access to the shark fin trade.

Photograph by Aquarium Explorer in Residence Brian Skerry

A broad coalition of ocean conservation and animal welfare advocates, including the MSPCA-Angell, New England Aquarium, The Humane Society of the United States, Fin Free Massachusetts and others, worked tirelessly to establish the ban, under the stewardship of lead sponsor Senator Jason Lewis, and with support from Representative David Nangle and nine-year-old shark advocate Sean Lesniak of Lowell, Mass.

“Today marks an historic milestone in the fight to preserve the health of our oceans,” said Lewis.  “I commend my colleagues at the State House for voting to protect sharks and take a stand against animal cruelty.  I extend my gratitude to the animal welfare organizations and ocean conservation groups who collaborated on this effort.”

Aquarium president and CEO Nigella Hillgarth introduced the governor after giving remarks
about the threat posed by shark finning on marine ecosystems worldwide.

Nigella Hillgarth, President and CEO of the New England Aquarium, lauded state lawmakers for their leadership.  “We are thrilled that the legislature has taken action to protect sharks by restricting market access for their fins,” said Hillgarth.  “Massachusetts’ shark protection efforts also complement and build upon the momentum of the Obama administration’s recent commitment to combating black market fishing and preventing illegally caught fish from entering the U.S. marketplace.”

Chef and Aquarium Overseer Ming Tsai was in attendance to lend his support for the signing of the bill. He spoke about a chef's responsibility to consider ocean sustainability when deciding what to serve in restaurants. “Every day we can decide to cook this or not cook that. And we have one sea,” said Tsai as he addressed attendees at today’s event. “But as chef’s we have a responsibility to make smart choices, and this by far is one of the smartest choices. And the only thing we can do as chefs is continuing to get that out to all the chefs of this country.”

Chef Ming Tsai addresses attendees in support of the bill

“The trend lines are clear: both the federal and state governments are ramping up efforts to protect sharks and save species so vital to maintaining healthy marine ecosystems,” said Laura Hagen, deputy director of advocacy for the MSPCA-Angell.

After addressing the crowd, Sean Lesniak pumped his fist in support of the bill

Sean Lesniak has been a strong proponent of the bill since writing a letter to State Representative David M. Nangle. He was later invited by Nangle to speak in front of 400 people at a House Judiciary Committee hearing, where he explained the importance of saving sharks.

Sharks are usually alive when the fins are cut off, and are thrown back in the water afterward, where they die slow deaths because they are unable to swim. Photo: Brian Skerry

Shark “finning” refers to the slicing off of a shark’s fins, often while the shark is still alive.  The animal is then thrown back into the ocean where, unable to swim, the shark dies a slow and painful death. The demand for shark fins, used to make shark fin soup, a bowl of which can cost upwards of $100, drives the unsustainable exploitation of sharks worldwide. The practice of shark finning is prohibited by both federal and state law, but the market for fins continues to promote the practice in foreign and international waters.

Cheers all around after the signing of the bill

The law went into effect immediately after signed by Governor Patrick.

The bill

Read media coverage about the ban and the signing:
Mass. becomes ninth state to ban shark fin tradeThe Boston Globe
Massachusetts to ban shark fin trade — The Boston Globe
No Shark Fin Soup for YouBoston Magazine
Lowell boy in spotlight as Patrick signs bill to protect sharksThe Lowell Sun 
New Massachusetts Law Bans Shark Finning — WCVB Channel 5

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Get ready for the Wharf Festival!

Join the Aquarium and Boston Harbor Cruises for a day of family fun at the first ever Wharf Festival, located on Boston’s Long Wharf.
Aquarium plaza on Central Wharf with Long Wharf behind

Saturday, August 9
11:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.

In celebration of Summer on the Waterfront, we're teaming up with our friends at BHC to give you a day the family won’t want to miss. Hosted by KISS 108's Billy Costa, Wharf Festival is sure to provide plenty to do for the entire family. There will be lots of free outdoor activities, including carnival games, Aquarium costumes, face painting and more. 

Faneuil Hall Marketplace will also add some lively entertainment with their Street Performers. There are four acts planned, plus some living pirate statues from Ten31 Productions to add a little "arrrrrrrrgh" to the day! Here's a schedule for the performances:

  • 11:00 am - 12:00 pm: Bob at Large
  • 12:00 - 1:00 pm: Kilted Colin
  • 1:00 - 2:00 pm: Cate Great!
  • 2:00 - 3:00 pm: Alakazam

In addition, three free Boston Duck Tours will also be given away on the Aquarium’s social media networks prior to the event. Want in? You'll get updates on how to participate when you like and follow the Aquarium on Facebook, Tumblr, Instagram, Twitter and Google+.

Annie Aquarium of the DUCK boat fleet

And that's not all that's happening on the waterfront. There are penguins to see at the Aquarium and whales to see on Stellwagen Bank (NOTE: Aquarium admission and whale watch tickets are not included). Come and stay a while! Discover all there is to do on Boston’s waterfront this summer.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Contest: Penguin in the city!

Have you seen the ads about town? The Aquarium's beloved penguins are in the spotlight this summer with our new Penguinology program. When you visit, you'll pick up gobs of fascinating facts about these beloved birds—from their super speed to their sneaky hearing.

One of the ads around Boston featuring our penguins

And if you just can't get enough penguin (because really, who can?) then you'll want to be tracking our social media this summer. That's because we're going to bring our penguin ambassador to several hotspots around Boston. Roast Beef (yes, that's his name) will be there with his air-conditioned penguin-mobile, while his minders will be armed with nifty bookmarks to hand out to penguin fans of all ages. Our penguin mascot might even join the fun! Definitely, bring the camera.

But wait...there's more.

Look for Roast Beef in his penguinmobile this summer!

Each time we give our followers on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Google+ a hint about Roast Beef's travels, we'll be posting a particular penguin fact. Say, the fact that penguins are fully grown in a couple months, for example. Remember that fact. Because FREE Aquarium passes will go to the first 10 people who wow us with their penguin knowledge of this fact after successfully solving the clues to find Roast Beef! 

We can't wait to see you here at the Aquarium. And if you want a fix between visits, be sure to follow us on social media to find out where Roast Beef will be appearing next!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Penguin chicks in The Boston Globe!

The hatching of penguin chicks never ceases to thrill us. And now we're excited to share news of these new arrivals with you! The Boston Globe published a story in the G section of the paper about our happy news about the arrival of five little blue penguin chicks this summer.

Click here to read the Globe article and see all the pictures.

Little blue penguin chicks losing their downy feathers and growing their sleek adult plumage
Photo: David Ryan, The Boston Globe

Little blue penguin chicks in the penguin exhibit
Photo: David Ryan, The Boston Globe

This summer it's truly all about penguins in these parts. We even have a special opportunities where visitors are invited to don their penguinologist hat (figuratively speaking) and learn heaps about these amazing little birds. Pick up a Penguinology guide book when you arrive and you can hit up the decoder stations to uncover penguins secrets—like the science behind their super speed underwater! Then learn what it's like to work with the penguins during insider presentations. Ask all about working with penguins—including what it's like to be bitten by those powerful beaks. You can even check out behind-the-scenes footage from the penguin breeding area like this. Talk about cute.

Besides raising chicks behind the scenes and sharing gobs of penguin secrets, there are more than 80 penguins gamboling and splashing through their exhibit—just a few feet from visitors! The 150-thousand gallon pool is studded with rocky islands, giving the penguins plenty of space to swim and hop out of the water.

Visitors watch the penguin biologists feed the African penguins

OK, you just have to see and experience this summer of penguins. Seriously. Come visit the Aquarium! Get started with planning your visit online. Pro tip: Zip in the fastest by buying your tickets online and printing them at home. The penguins are waiting for you!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

TV reporter turned Aquarium intern

Ted Reinstein with WCVB's magazine show Chronicle recently donned an Aquarium uniform and spent the day as a summer intern with us. We put him to work preparing food for the animals in the Giant Ocean Tank—including fish tacos for the loggerhead sea turtles (you'll see what we mean when you watch the clip)—giving talks at the top of the tank and helping visitors at the Edge of the Sea tidepool touch tank.

Click here to watch the clip on to see whether this TV reporter can hack it!

Behind the scenes in the Giant Ocean Tank "kitchen" 

Our competitive internship program welcomes nearly 70 people each summer, from all walks of life. New England Aquarium interns gain hands-on experience and explore career options while networking with Aquarium professionals and their peers.

Want to see the interns at work? Come visit the Aquarium today! They're brimming with information to help answer all your questions. Buy a timed ticket online and print it out at home, you could be watching the loggerheads eat their fish tacos in no time.