Pacific Seas Aquarium Blog
Imagine standing in a tunnel of water with hammerhead sharks swimming above your head and sea turtles gliding in front of you.
That's just part of the plan for the new Pacific Seas Aquarium at Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium, opening Sept. 7, 2018.
Get the latest news here.
Flashes of color: Soldierfish move into Baja Bay
It was almost as if they knew it was moving day. Nearly 100 bright red, bigscale soldierfish splashed in their behind-the-scenes pool in the old North Pacific Aquarium, so energetic they threw water up and out of the net that covered their temporary home.
Our turtles pass their first physical
Sunny and Azul, the green sea turtles waiting patiently for their new home in the aquarium's Baja Bay exhibit, passed their first wellness exam this month with flying colors - and got a treat as a reward for being good patients. Watch the video below.
The aquarium grows...and grows...
It's beginning to look a lot like an aquarium now. Visitors to the zoo see a high roofline; people passing by on Five Mile Drive see fish scale facades, window insets and the space for our glass artwork.
The crane is gone, and the tanks have come, including the enormous Baja Bay where our sea turtles, rays and sharks will live. But before they move in there's still a lot to be done. Catch up with where our aquarium is now.
We've got sea turtles!
Sharks and rays arrive at point defiance
Aug. 16, 2017 - In a transfer operation as intensely choreographed as a ballet, four hammerhead shark pups and two eagle rays traveled last Friday from Hawaii to their new home at Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium, where they'll live until the Baja Bay exhibit is built at the new aquarium.
WHAT'S THAT WALL? EXPLORE THE NEW AQUARIUM
by Kris Sherman
July 16, 2018 - It was almost as if they knew it was moving day. Nearly 100 bright red, bigscale soldierfish splashed in their behind-the-scenes pool in the old North Pacific Aquarium, so energetic they threw water up and out of the net that covered their temporary home.
“They know our blue shirts,” said Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium aquarist John Foster. “When they see us, it’s usually because it’s feeding time.”
But this day, was much more than that. It was moving day.
On Tuesday, July 10, the time had come to transfer them from their temporary “growing up” home to their permanent digs in the 280,000-gallon Baja Bay habitat in the brand new Pacific Seas Aquarium, which opens to the public on Sept. 7.
Foster, who has a bachelor’s degree in marine biology from Oregon State University, clearly loves caring for the fish in his charge. No-nonsense, he focused intently on the work, but was also tender while working with the soldierfish.
The move was a carefully choreographed, three-hour blur. Foster quickly filled three large picnic coolers with saltwater from the soldierfish’s temporary quarters and inserted air hoses into them to oxygenate the water. Aquarist Melissa Bishop and aquarist Martie Johnson pitched in with various tasks.
Then, it was time to begin moving the fish.
And speed was of the essence.
Foster carefully scooped the fish into a net about 10 at a time – not an easy task for swiftly moving animals with the large, red-edged scales and big dorsal fins.
Each group received a three-minute bath in fresh water, the final treatment of several to ensure they were perfectly clean and free of any parasites or diseases that can bedevil fish populations.
Then Foster scooped them up again and quickly walked out one room and into another, where the saltwater-filled coolers awaited the fish. Johnson held the cooler tops open as the transfer were made.
Each time he left and entered the room where the soldierfish temporarily lived, Foster did a bit of a “quarantine two-step,” quickly putting one foot then the other into a disinfectant-filled sponge. This “step” is crucial to not tracking bacteria from outside in – or inside out – during the series of water baths carefully constructed to ensure the health of the fish.
The energetic, splashing, soldierfish – their colors flashing in the light - were the largest complement of fish to be moved yet, as the zoo’s team of aquarists – zookeepers who specialize in the care of aquatic animals – continues the massive job of moving thousands of fish and invertebrates into the Pacific Seas Aquarium.
Once all were safely bathed in fresh water and then returned to saltwater in the coolers, the race was on. Foster grabbed the handles of the cart on which the coolers sat and walked swiftly out of the North Pacific Aquarium, across the zoo, down the path into the Pacific Seas Aquarium and up the elevator to the top of Baja Bay.
There, the three aquarists put air hoses into the coolers to continue oxygen infusion into the water as Foster scooped water out of Baja Bay and carefully poured it into each cooler. The aim: gradually change out the water in the coolers to match the temperature and chemistry of the 77-degree Baja Bay.
As he and Bishop scooped and emptied, scooped and emptied, Johnson constantly checked the temperature of the water in the coolers. They needed to get to 75 or better to release the fish.
“We’re there!” Foster exclaimed. “Let’s release them!” His demeanor: professional with a touch of little-kid excitement.
He grabbed a net and scooped up the gorgeous red fish, walking down short stairs to a dive platform where he knelt and smoothly set the net into the water, urging the fish to swim out and away. They complied.
After several transfers, the task was complete. Ninety-three bigscale soldier fish were now at home in Baja Bay, where they were joined by 48 blueline snappers the next day. Over the next several weeks, an array of other sub-tropical fish, sea turtles Sunny and Azul, hammerhead sharks and spotted eagle rays will also enter their Baja Bay home.
“It was a good day,” Foster said. “It’s extremely satisfying to care for these animals, do the preparation for moving them, and finally to see them swimming in our beautiful new Pacific Seas Aquarium.”
Sunny and Azul, the green sea turtles waiting patiently for their new home in the aquarium's Baja Bay exhibit, passed their first wellness exam this month with flying colors - and got a treat as a reward for being good patients. Watch the video here.
by Rosemary Ponnekanti
Jan. 24, 2018 - It's beginning to look a lot like an aquarium over there now. Visitors to the zoo see a high roofline; people passing by on Five Mile Drive see fish scale facades, window insets and the space for our glass artwork. The crane is gone, and the tanks have come, including the enormous Baja Bay where our sea turtles, rays and sharks will live. But before they move in there's still a lot to be done. Catch up with where our aquarium is now.
Brand-new to the zoo is the Baja Bay exhibit, a 250,000-gallon tank that will hold our green sea turtles, spotted eagle rays and scalloped hammerhead sharks. When the aquarium is open, this view will be one that our aquarists will see as they monitor and feed the animals.
Visitors will have two viewpoints: the huge half-tunnel window on the lower level, and a shark's-eye view from the other side, up above.
And inside the black plastic? That's an artificial seamount waiting to be poured with concrete and covered with "coral".
Meanwhile, outside the building, sand-blasted, graphite-rubbed fish seem to swim across the concrete walls on the side of the aquarium close to the Wild Wonders Outdoor Theater.
On another exterior wall, visible from Five Mile Drive below, facade cladding is designed to look like giant aqua fish scales - a nod both to nearby Puget Sound, and the amazing marine creatures inside the Pacific Seas Aquarium.
We've got sea turtles!
Sharks and Rays Arrive
Just as important, however, is the role that these swiftly-swimming creatures will play for the humans that come to see them.
Although they were taken under strict permit from a sustainable pupping ground in Oahu, scalloped hammerheads are endangered elsewhere - including in the Gulf of California which their exhibit will depict. The zoo's sharks - plus the rays and turtles - will be ambassadors for their species, inspiring people to take action for their conservation in the wild.
"The more I learn about hammerhead sharks, the more fascinated I am by them," Bishop says. "Seeing them in person makes me even more excited to share them with everyone in the new aquarium."
Walk through the new aquarium plan
From the path fence, this is the space furthest away on the right.)
The new state-of-the-art aquarium will host many of the same exhibits from the North Pacific Aquarium, including the Puget Sound native species and Jammin' with Jellies.
New exhibits will include:
- Baja Bay: A 250,000-gallon warm-water exhibit, which will be home to scalloped hammerhead sharks, green sea turtles and spotted eagle rays
- Northwest Waters: A 75,000-gallon exhibit highlighting Pacific Northwest marine life
- Coastal Kelp Forest: A tank featuring giant strands of kelp similar to the kelp forests found off the coast of Southern California
- Tidal Touch Zone: An engaging space offering hands-on and up-close experiences for people of all ages
The new aquarium will continue a long-standing tradition of highlighting Puget Sound marine life while showcasing some exciting new species.
The 35,000 square-foot building will be built between Wild Wonders Outdoor Theater and the Rocky Shores exhibit area.
This project, along with other Zoo Capital Projects, is made possible by voters’ approval in 2014 of a $198 million Metro Parks Tacoma bond issue, with more than $65 million earmarked for capital improvements at the Zoo.
The South Pacific Aquarium, home to 16 sharks and Stingray Cove, will remain in its current location.
Learn about other exciting Point Defiance Park projects.