Latest News from Fort Fisher

Director Elected to AZA Board

News Article From: Fort Fisher on Friday, October 17th, 2014

Peggy Sloan_NCAFF DirectorPeggy Sloan, Director of the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher, was recently elected by the membership of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA)  to the AZA Board of Directors.

Beginning October 1, 2014, Sloan will serve on the AZA Board of Directors as one of its thirteen members. Sloan will be involved in every aspect of the national organization, including accreditation, ethics, animal welfare, and conservation. Each year, AZA’s 229 accredited facilities collectively contribute $160 million to field conservation projects that help to protect species across the world, serve more than 181 million visitors, welcome more than 12 million students on educational field trips, contribute $16 billion to the U.S. economy, and support 142,000 jobs.

“I believe aquariums and zoos lay a foundation and provide a gateway for people to connect with and discover nature. As a professional organization, AZA is charged with caring for the people who engage and recruit others to save and restore wildlife and wild places – members and member institutions. What an awesome responsibility,” said Sloan.

Sloan brings more than 25 years of experience in conservation education, science, business management and collaborative leadership to the AZA Board. Sloan holds a Bachelor of Science from Richard Stockton State College and a Master of Science from the University of North Carolina Wilmington. She completed leadership training for executives through Ross Business School, Harvard and University of Texas.

“AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums will benefit from Peggy’s strong leadership and extensive experience,” said AZA President and CEO Jim Maddy.

Sloan has served six years on AZA’s Conservation Education Committee (three years as Vice Chair) and currently serves on AZA’s Annual Program and Aquarium Affairs Committees.

Founded in 1924, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the advancement of zoos and aquariums in the areas of conservation, animal welfare, education, science, and recreation. AZA is the accrediting body for the top zoos and aquariums in the United States and six other countries.  To learn more, visit


Aquarium Working to Save Sharks

News Article From: Fort Fisher on Friday, September 26th, 2014

NC Aquarium at Fort Fisher staff work to a bring a sandbar shark on board during a field conservation data collecting trip.

In the early morning light, two fishing boats bobbed in the brackish water of the Cape Fear River. Their small crews baited hooks with large chunks of mackerel, cast multiple lines into the current and did what anglers have always done – waited.

In only minutes a flexing rod interrupted talk of weather and the day’s possibilities. The action was on. Reel. Pump. Pull. Repeat, repeat, repeat.

In a flurry of splashing, thrashing and hauling, a juvenile sandbar shark was lowered to the boat deck. A large circle hook was quickly and carefully removed from the toothy mouth. A tape measure unfurled along the animal’s back and 45 inches of nose-to-tail measurements recorded. A half-roll of the animal’s body revealed the underbelly and its gender: male. Then with speed and experience, strong arms carefully lifted the animal over the boat’s side and released it. The four-person crew smiled as the shark flicked its tail and swam away.


NC Aquarium at Fort Fisher staff measure a sandbar shark before releasing the animal during a data collection trip.

This catch and release process occurred dozens of times during two days of conservation field work completed by North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher staff. More than 95 sharks were cataloged, with data to be shared with National Marine Fisheries. In addition, visiting researchers collected data on southern stingrays.

“Many people know the Aquarium cares for hundreds of species of animals,” said Aquarium Director Peggy Sloan. “Yet, many are unaware of the different conservation efforts supported by the Aquarium, from raising seahorses and tagging sea turtles, to helping better understand local shark populations.”

Information gathered during the research trips will help population assessments of local shark species and provide significant data on wild populations of stingrays according to Aquarium Curator Hap Fatzinger. Fatzinger supervises Aquarium animal care and helped lead the recent field work.

“There is very little data being provided on sharks and rays and they are critically important in the health of the ocean,” said Fatzinger.

Globally, sharks are one of the most imperiled animal species. Overfishing, combined with slow growth rates, late sexual maturity and small number of young creates a real threat to the survival of shark species Fatzinger explained. Estimates range as high as 100 million sharks killed each year.


During a field study, NC Aquarium at Fort Fisher staff net a sandbar shark. The catch and release process included data collection to gather information about local shark populations.

The Aquarium is currently working with the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, of which it is an accredited member, and other regional partners planning additional conservation efforts with sand tiger sharks.

“Species survival and conservation are an important focus of all accredited members of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums,” said Sloan. “We love animals and are committed to protecting and saving them.”


Haunt the Aquarium for Trick or Treat Fun

News Article From: Fort Fisher on Wednesday, September 24th, 2014

FF-TOTUS-GirlsWitchDiverTrick or Treat Under the Sea at the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher. The newly expanded Halloween event features four nights of ghoulish good times, 5 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 23; Friday, Oct. 24; Wednesday, Oct. 29 and Thursday, Oct. 30.

Grab your costume and troll the Aquarium for spooky good times. Halloween games and magic shows will have the family shrieking with delight. Haunted gardens, live animal encounters and scary divers swimming among the sharks are sure to get the adrenaline pumping.

Local merchants, also costumed for the event, will give away treats and coupons to trick-or-treaters. Judges will recognize the merchant booth with the most imaginative, spooky and environmentally friendly theme each evening.

This year’s sponsors include Chick-fil-A, Eye Associates of Wilmington and WILMA magazine.

Advance tickets available online here and at the Aquarium, $11 each. Aquarium member discounts are available. Children 2 years old and younger are free. Tickets may also be purchased at the door. Children 16 and younger must be accompanied by an adult. Be green and bring your own trick-or-treat bag.

*The Aquarium will close at 2:30 p.m. (last ticket sold at 2 p.m.) on event days to prepare for all the ghoulish good times of Trick or Treat Under the Sea. 


Turtle Teaching Engages Students

News Article From: Fort Fisher on Tuesday, September 23rd, 2014


Sea turtle facts and fun lesson plans offer teachers a new way to engage students. The new Sea Turtle Exploration curriculum presented by the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher invites educators to use Sea Turtle Exploration to help engage students in the fundamentals of STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math). The ready-to-use, standards-based lesson plans aligned with the North Carolina Standards and Common Core for grades K-5.

In addition to the curriculum, teachers and students explore additional resources such as sea turtle fact sheets, conservation actions, coloring pages and online activities. During the school year, weekly blog posts include species profiles, aquarium staff spotlights, behind the scenes videos and new lesson plans.

Classes may “adopt” a turtle and learn about its care and growth and receive weekly care updates including the turtle’s current weight and length. Each class also receives a certificate of participation.

Visit the website and curriculum here:

For more information, contact Megan Ennes, Education Program Specialist at the NC Aquarium at Fort Fisher:




Reel Fun Fishing Day

News Article From: Fort Fisher on Tuesday, August 26th, 2014

Surf FishingThe North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher invites you to “Reel Fun Fishing Day,” 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, September 27, 2014.

Visitors can catch best fishing practices and tips and discover the lure of cast netting. Cooks in the family may enjoy a fish filleting demonstration. Little anglers casting about for games and activities won’t be disappointed when they learn to tie helpful nautical knots and create take-home crafts. Guests explore more during hands-on programs including surf fishing classes, crabbing expeditions and the opportunity to be an Aquarist Apprentice.

“Reel Fun Fishing Day” is free with Aquarium admission. Classes and tours are an additional fee. Preregister for classes here or call 910-458-7468.


Saturday, September 27 at 9 a.m.

A three-hour exploration of the Zeke’s Island Estuarine Research Reserve by canoe. Activities may include crabbing, seining, or birding. Participants should be able to swim and be capable of sustained physical exertion. For ages 8 and older. Ages 8-12 must be accompanied by two adults. Participants should wear closed-toe shoes. Fee: $25 per participant. Admission to Aquarium is not included. PRE-REGISTRATION REQUIRED.


Saturday, September 27 at 9 a.m. and 1 p.m.

This 3-hour workshop includes one hour of classroom discussion, then surf fishing on the beach nearby. All equipment and bait provided. Program is rain or shine, with extra activities added in event of bad weather (e.g., throwing a cast net). Ages 10 and older. Fee: $15 per participant. Aquarium admission is not included. PRE-REGISTRATION REQUIRED.


Saturday, September 27 at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.

Join us for this hands-on program that introduces participants to the challenge of catching blue crabs. Lessons in crab biology and crabbing equipment prepare participants for an exciting expedition outdoors to catch (and release) crabs. All bait and equipment is provided. For ages 7 and older. Fee: $19 for ages 13 and older, $17 for ages 7-12. Aquarium admission included. PRE-REGISTRATION REQUIRED.


Saturday, September 27 at 2 p.m.

Check out a dirty job you’re sure to love. Join staff on a behind-the-scenes tour and learn about Aquarium animals, what they eat, how they live and how to care for them. Then assist aquarists with food preparation and help feed the animals. Participants also observe aquarists during daily care and maintenance tasks. This limited opportunity is only open to 10 participants. Participants should wear closed-toe shoes and be prepared to smell fishy. For ages 10 and older. Ages 14 and younger must be accompanied by an adult. Fee: $28 for ages 13 and older, $26 for ages 10-12. Aquarium admission included. PREREGISTRATION REQUIRED.


Bilingual Programs at Aquarium

News Article From: Fort Fisher on Wednesday, August 20th, 2014

The North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher hosts Hispanic Heritage Day, Sunday, September 21, 2014. The event features programming and activities presented in both English and Spanish in celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month.

Bilingual translators will be stationed around the Aquarium to share fun facts and information about exhibits and wildlife. Daily feedings, dive shows and behind-the-scenes tours will also be presented in Spanish. Guests of all ages can enjoy crafts and experiments at education stations.

“There is so much to be learned and experienced at the Aquarium,” said Director Peggy Sloan. “Language should not prevent people from enjoying the Aquarium and learning about the natural world.”

Hispanic Heritage Day and activities are free with Aquarium admission.

Program Schedule*

10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Film (Espanol)

10:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. Dive Show with Translator

11 a.m. and 3 p.m. Animal Feeding with Translator

11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. Behind the Scenes Tour (Espanol)

3:30 p.m. Animal encounter with Translator

*subject to change



News Article From: Fort Fisher on Friday, August 15th, 2014


OCEARCH_sharktag_creditOCEARCHIn recent years, white sharks Mary Lee and Katherine have made the occasional visit to the waters off southeastern North Carolina. Now the researcher who helped tag these magnificent animals and make the world aware of their migration paths will visit the Wilmington area for the first time.

The North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher and Cape Fear Community College present an evening with OCEARCH Founding Chairman and Expedition Leader Chris Fischer, 7:30 p.m. Monday, Sept. 8, 2014 at CFCC’s Union Station, 502 North Front Street.

Fischer presents “Sharks: The Impossible is Possible,” speaking about how he and his one-of-a-kind team provide impossible access to the ocean’s apex predators for the world’s leading scientists. Fisher will share his own compelling journey to becoming a recognized leader in ocean exploration, research, conservation and education. He will also talk about a new cutting edge curriculum based on the Global Shark Tracker used by millions all over the world. The presentation will conclude with a question and answer session.ChrisFischer_OCEARCH_creditOCEARCH

Since 2007, Fischer has led 20 global expeditions to advance science and education while unlocking the many mysteries surrounding the life of white sharks and other ocean giants. His work with OCEARCH has been aired on the National Geographic Channel and HISTORY. He has spent time with multiple presidents and world leaders in his quest to Educate, Inspire and Enable – and help ensure a future for our world’s oceans.

Tickets for the event are $10 and only available in advance (no tickets will be sold at the door). To purchase tickets click here or call (910) 458-7468. THIS EVENT IS SOLD OUT. TICKETS ARE NO LONGER AVAILABLE. (9/5/14)



News Article From: Fort Fisher on Thursday, August 14th, 2014

The North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher recently ranked among the best Aquariums in the country based on guest experiences shared online.

In early August, TripAdvisor, the world’s largest travel site, announced the winners of its 2014 Travelers’ Choice Awards for Zoos and

Fins and Family Tour

Aquariums worldwide. The N.C. Aquarium at Fort Fisher ranked 17th among the Top 25 Aquariums in the United States.

The rankings were determined using an algorithm that took into account the quantity and quality of reviews for zoos and aquariums worldwide gathered over a 12-month period, according to a TripAdvisor representative.

“This type of recognition validates the hard work of our staff and the exceptional guest experience the Aquarium provides connecting individuals with nature and fun,” said Aquarium Director Peggy Sloan.



News Article From: Fort Fisher on Thursday, August 14th, 2014

An Aquarium Educator begins to sign horseshoe crab.

 The North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher will offer programs tailored especially for individuals who are deaf or hearing impaired on Saturday, September 6, 2014.

Sign language, captioning or scripting will enhance many of the activities of the day – animal feedings, live-animal presentations and films – and interpreters will assist visitors at selected exhibits.

The dive program, scheduled for 10:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m., will include an interpreter assisting with questions for the diver swimming inside the exhibit with sharks, rays and a green sea turtle.

The aquarium presents Deaf Awareness Day with the assistance of the Regional Resource Center for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing to draw attention to the needs and interests of the hearing-impaired.

Scheduled Aquarium activities on Sept. 6 include:

10:00 am Film: Web of Life (close captioned)

10:30 am Dive Show (sign language interpreter)

11:00 am Buzzard Bay feeding (sign language interpreter)

11:30 am Live Animal Program: Jellies (sign language interpreter)

12:00 pm Film: Nightlife (close captioned)

1:30 pm Live Animal Program: Turtles (sign language interpreter)

2:30 pm Dive Show (sign language interpreter)

3:00 pm Shadows on the Sand feeding (sign language interpreter)

3:30 pm Film: Unlovables (close captioned)


News Article From: Fort Fisher on Thursday, July 24th, 2014

Moon JellyThe North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher premiers a new neon night of fun specially geared to tweens. By the light of the moon (jellies), children ages 10 to13 take on the Aquarium after dark at the Glow in the Shark sleepover, Saturday, August 23.

This kids-only overnight features marine science discovery in a safe and supervised environment. Qualified and trained staff lead all activities from a squid dissection to games. Before the kids tuck-in for the night they will learn about bioluminescence and meet a number of Aquarium animals.

Dinner, snacks and breakfast will be provided. The event runs from 6 p.m. Saturday to 9 a.m. Sunday. Preregistration is required and space is limited. Tickets are $65; multiple sibling and Aquarium Society member discounts are offered.

To register click here.