After over a year of seawall construction directly in front of the Aquarium, I’m happy to report that we are in the home stretch, with completion anticipated in early spring. Pay us a visit soon to see the changes in progress, and be sure to take note of the light-penetrating glass blocks in the sidewalks on your way in: they’re in place to aid migrating salmon.
Completion of the section in front of our facility represents a major milestone in the overall seawall project, and an important step closer to the redevelopment of Seattle’s central waterfront. With your support, we at the Aquarium continue with the expansion planning that will seal our place as the centerpiece of the new waterfront, with exciting new exhibits and programming devoted to ocean health. We recently completed an implementation plan for this extensive and complex project; I look forward to sharing more details with you as they develop.
In the meantime, please take advantage of the many events and programs at your Seattle Aquarium in the months to come—visit our website for all the details. Thank you again for your support!
Cuttlefishes get their name from their cuttlebone—an internal, porous structure that helps to regulate their buoyancy—an element of anatomy that no other cephalopods possess. There are 120 known species of cuttlefish: you can come see dwarf cuttlefish, Sepia bandensis, in the Aquarium’s Tropical Pacific exhibit.
Dwarf cuttlefish earn their names: they’re about the size of a pea when they hatch, and grow to approximately three to four inches long; other cuttlefish species range generally in size from six to 10 inches.
And, while all cephalopods can change color, cuttlefishes do it in quite a spectacular way, earning them the nickname “chameleons of the sea.” Cuttlefish can go from white (their color at rest) to jet black—and many other colors in between—in an instant. They can even scroll bands of color across their bodies, an effect which some scientists suggest is used to mesmerize prey and communicate with other cuttlefish.
Cuttlefishes prey on shrimp, crabs and fish, relying on their camouflaging ability to sneak up on their desired meal. If the prey is partially hidden by sand, cuttlefishes can squirt out a jet of water to uncover it. Then they quickly open their eight arms, shoot out two long feeding tentacles to grab the prey, and pull it toward their sharp beaks.
Visit our website to learn more about these fascinating animals, then come see them in person during Octopus Week at the Seattle Aquarium!
Regular readers of our blog will remember that last year, the Seattle Aquarium took in a critically ill olive ridley sea turtle that was found stranded on the Oregon Coast. He quickly became known as “Tucker,” a name that came from the first sign of life he showed after his arrival: tucking his tail under his body.
Tucker spent several months being rehabilitated at the Seattle Aquarium, Washington state’s only sea turtle rehabilitation facility. He even underwent treatment in the hyperbaric chamber at Virginia Mason Hospital before being deemed well enough to travel to SeaWorld San Diego and continue his rehabilitation, along with two other turtles of the same species. Tucker headed to sunny California last May and has been there ever since.
Below is an update from SeaWorld San Diego’s Assistant Fish Curator Mike Price about what Tucker has been up to since he left the Seattle Aquarium.
All three animals—Solstice, Lighting and Tucker—are doing very well. They’ve been in a large pool (90,000 gallons, 12 feet deep) for six weeks and we’ve seen substantial improvement in their ability to not only dive, but to also maintain depth while foraging for food off the bottom. The turtles have also been observed resting for prolonged periods of time on the bottom without assistance to maintain their positions. They’ve even been observed stopping themselves mid-water and holding their position in the water column.
All three appear to be heading in the direction of being candidates to return to the wild in fall of this year. It’s also interesting to note that they still appear to be buoyant at surface, but when maneuvering through the water column, there’s no indication of any hindrance to their buoyancy in either foraging or resting.
We’ll continue to keep all three in the big pool to assist with their rehabilitation toward the goal of successful return to the wild in the fall!
We hope to add a blog post later this year about Tucker’s return to his home in the ocean. Stay tuned!
Geoduck is pronounced goo-ee-duck. Other names for this majestic mollusk: mud duck, king clam and (translated from Chinese) elephant-trunk clam.
A well-earned name
Geoducks (Panopea generosa) are native to the west coast of North America, and their name is derived from a phrase in the Nisqually language, gʷídəq, which means “dig deep.”
The world’s largest burrowing clam
When fully mature, Puget Sound geoducks weigh, on average, a bit over two pounds. Their shells are between six and eight inches long, and their siphons (the “necks” that protrude from their shells) can be over three feet long!
The largest geoduck ever weighed and verified by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife was a whopping 8.16 pounds.
Geoducks can live more than 150 years, and don’t reach their full size until they’re 15 years old.
True to their name, geoducks are generally found buried two to three feet deep in mud, sand or gravel on Puget Sound beaches (by comparison, Manila clams are usually two to four inches underground).
If you’re lucky enough to see a geoduck siphon on a Puget Sound beach, touch it gently—if you can even do so fast enough before the geoduck retracts it. Pulling on the siphon will break it and kill the animal. Fast fact: it’s illegal in Washington state to possess only the siphon of a geoduck.
The Seattle Aquarium bestowed its annual awards at our Chairman’s Dinner on January 26. For his lifetime leadership at the critical intersection of marine conservation, science, government policy and citizen engagement, William W. Stelle, Jr. was awarded the Seattle Aquarium Medal, which is presented to an individual whose leadership and lifetime accomplishments reflect the Seattle Aquarium’s mission of Inspiring Conservation of Our Marine Environment.
Will Stelle is the senior advisor to the NOAA administrator; he was formerly the regional administrator of NOAA Fisheries, West Coast Region, managing the listings of salmon and steelhead populations under the Endangered Species Act in the coastal west. He has also served as the chief architect for salmon recovery strategies covering hydropower, hatcheries, harvests and riverine, estuarine and marine habitats vital for salmon. He’s been at the center of some of the region’s most contentious natural resource engagements over the last two decades. He led major structural reforms of marine fisheries management and marine mammal conservation endeavors. He played a major role in leading NOAA’s tribal fiduciary responsibilities, and in ongoing congressional engagements, and served as co-chair of the Puget Sound Federal Caucus during the Obama administration, along with EPA.
In his remarks after accepting the award, Stelle emphasized the importance of resuscitating Puget Sound and, by extension, the one world ocean we all share. He noted that our region’s history, technical and scientific expertise, and wealth are strong foundational points from which to build. But, he noted, we must take ownership for what is occurring in our figurative backyard. “The time has come to stop saying, ‘I wish they’d do something about it,’” he commented. “The ‘they’ is ‘we.’ It’s our responsibility.”
For his endless commitment as an educational leader for marine life and cultures of the Salish Sea, Dr. Marco B.A. Hatch was awarded the Seattle Aquarium Conservation Research Award, which honors individuals performing leadership research in the field. An assistant professor of environmental sciences at Western Washington University (WWU), Marco Hatch is a marine ecologist and member of the Samish Indian Nation. Prior to WWU he directed the Salish Sea Research at Northwest Indian College. His research focuses on the nexus of people and marine ecology, with a particular focus on clams.
Dr. Hatch spoke of clam gardens—beaches, from Washington to Alaska, altered by First Nations and Native American people to ensure a reliable food source. He described visiting one such beach and finding “a series of modifications done over thousands of years” created by “interdisciplinary teams grounded in community.” His remarks reinforced that it is through approaches like these that true, long-lasting change can be made.
Past Chair James C. Gurke presented 17-year veteran Seattle Aquarium board member J. Terry McLaughlin with this year’s Scott S. Patrick Inspirational Award. Named for the late Aquarium board member and Seattle Seahawks executive who served with extraordinary passion, the award recognizes the Seattle Aquarium board member whose service best exemplifies the leadership and enthusiasm that characterized Patrick’s life and board service.
Among his many contributions, Terry McLaughlin has served as board chair, secretary and treasurer; and co-led the successful negotiation with the City of Seattle to allow the Seattle Aquarium Society to manage the Aquarium on the city’s behalf. He is currently co-chair of the expansion project oversight committee.