Latest News from Fort Fisher

Aquarium Cares for Injured Sea Turtles from Northeast

News Article From: Fort Fisher on Wednesday, November 26th, 2014

NCAFF-ColdStunned-SeaTurtles1The North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher will care for nearly two dozen endangered sea turtles during the Thanksgiving holiday. The sea turtles were injured in a mass cold-stunning event along the New England coast in the past two weeks and transported to North Carolina on Tuesday.

More than 1,000 sea turtles were rescued after becoming ill from prolonged exposure to cold water temperatures in the near-shore waters of the northern Atlantic. The extraordinary number of rescued turtles is requiring extensive collaboration with wildlife organizations and aquariums around the country offering space and resources to care for the sick animals. Initially, the N.C. Aquarium at Fort Fisher agreed to care for 20 Kemp’s Ridley sea turtles and three green sea turtles, but additional animals may be accepted as room and resources allow.

“Our goal is to care for these sea turtles and release them back to their natural habitat as soon as they are ready,” said Aquarium Curator Hap Fatzinger. “We are also preparing for the potential of local cold-stunned animals as water temperatures drop along the North Carolina coast, as well.”

Aquarium staff will provide the turtles with daily care, special diets and close monitoring. Initial rehabilitation plans estimate short recuperation times with releases into the warmer waters of the Gulf Stream when the turtles recover.

Sea turtles are reptiles and cannot control their own body temperatures. Cold-stunned turtles become lethargic, experience decreased circulation and heart rates, and may die. They are susceptible to respiratory illness, animal attacks, bacterial and fungal infections. Serious cuts and abrasions may occur if the animal is washed ashore. Eye injuries and weight loss are also common.

The turtles currently in the Aquarium’s care, however, are not experiencing the most severe illnesses related to cold-stunning. They range in weight from 1 to 3 kilograms (2.2 to 6.6 pounds). Visual determination of gender and exact age is not possible. The sizes of the animals indicate all are sub-adult and are not yet old enough to reproduce.

“The Aquarium is not a sea turtle rescue facility,” said Aquarium Director Peggy Sloan. “A cold stunning event of this size, however, greatly impacts these vulnerable animals. We all agreed our expert staff could assist in this crisis and do whatever is needed to save these sea turtles.” In addition to Fort Fisher, The N.C. Aquariums at Pine Knoll Shores and Roanoke Island will also care for cold-stunned sea turtles.

The Aquarium receives no additional funding or staff to assist in the turtle care. Anyone interested in making a donation to assist in the care and rehabilitation of the sea turtles may contact (910) 458-8257 or

Cold-stunned sea turtles occur in the coastal waters of North Carolina, as well. The public may encounter turtles floating in the waterway and around marinas, they may find them lying motionless along the beaches or salt marsh shorelines. All turtles must be assumed to be alive and able to be rehabilitated, per proper methods. Even though a sea turtle may appear to have no signs of life, it may not be dead. When properly cared for after being warmed very slowly, many times these animals can fully recover if appropriate procedures are put in place quickly.

Anyone who finds a sick, injured or dead sea turtle should contact the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission Sea Turtle Stranding Network at (252) 241-7367.
Additionally, the Aquarium plans to offer special behind the scenes tours to view the sea turtles during their recovery. A portion of the tour fees will benefit Aquarium conservation efforts.

NCAFF-ColdStunned-SeaTurtles2Sea Turtle Rehabilitation Tours

$5 per person, Aquarium admission not included. Each tour will take approximately 15 minutes.

Friday, Nov. 28 at 10:30 a.m., 1 p.m. and 1:30 p.m.

Saturday, Nov. 29 at 10:30 a.m., noon, 12:30 p.m., 1 p.m., 1:30 p.m. and 3 p.m.

Sunday, Nov. 30 at 10:30 a.m., noon, 12:30 p.m., 2 p.m., 2:30 p.m. and 3 p.m.

Toast the Coast New Year’s Day

News Article From: Fort Fisher on Tuesday, November 25th, 2014

FF__2015_smallCelebrate New Year’s Day in a new way. Join the “Toast the Coast” festivities at the NC Aquarium at Fort Fisher 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. January 1.

The Aquarium coastal-themed party lasts all day with crafts, ocean resolutions and daily programs featuring “What we love the most about the coast.” A noise-maker craft and kid parade precedes two countdowns for a fin-tastic 2015 to take place at the daily dive shows at 10:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m.

“Toast the Coast” activities and daily dive programs are free with Aquarium admission.


Holiday Outreach

News Article From: Fort Fisher on Wednesday, November 19th, 2014

FF_Santa_SeaUrchinA holiday-themed Aquarium Outreach adds a little something extra to your seasonal event. Perfect for all ages, guests learn more about North Carolina native animals and their natural “decorations”  from camouflage to colors used to attract mates. Meet hermit crabs, sea urchins, a wood duck and reptiles. Aquarium staff also helps participants craft age-appropriate, eco-friendly ornaments for their own holiday decorations.

For more information about a holiday-themed Outreach click here or call (910) 458-8257, ext. 236.

Get Jolly at Santa by the Sea

News Article From: Fort Fisher on Monday, October 27th, 2014

NCAFF_DivingSanta2012What’s more magical than Santa dashing through the snow? Well, Santa by the Sea, of course. Join the jolly ol’ elf for two festive evenings at the N.C. Aquarium at Fort Fisher for a unique holiday experience from 5 to 8 p.m., Saturdays, Dec. 13 and 20.

Santa’s guests make holiday crafts, play games, win prizes and much more. Explore the Aquarium’s decked halls and enjoy holiday music. Listen as Mrs. Clause shares a fishy and festive tale during story time. Good girls and boys can visit with Santa and meet a few of his wild friends. He may even surprise everyone by diving alongside sharks, rays and one of his favorite sea turtle friends, Shelldon.

Tis’ almost the season to be jolly, so purchase your tickets today and start a holiday tradition your child will always remember. Each child receives a free photo with Santa. Advance tickets are $15 per person; children 2 and younger are free. Tickets at the door will be $18. Aquarium members receive a 10% discount. Children must be accompanied by at least one paying adult.

Advance tickets available here.


Sweet Aquarium Treat for Halloween Trash

News Article From: Fort Fisher on Thursday, October 23rd, 2014

NCAFF_WrapperRecycle_2013After the jack-o-lanterns go dark and the last bits of candy eaten, a massive amount of trash remains to remind us of Halloween fun and excess. The N.C. Aquarium at Fort Fisher invites local students to put a little green in their Halloween by collecting used candy wrappers for recycling.

Instead of trashing filling landfills with extra waste, classes around New Hanover and Brunswick counties are encouraged to save their wrappers. The class delivering the most candy wrappers by weight to the Aquarium by Friday, Nov. 21, 2014, will be treated to a free Outreach program including a live animal presentation.

Aquarium staff will weigh the collected wrappers, sort according to recycling viability and send the wrappers to a recycling partner, TerraCycle. TerraCycle creates recycling systems for hard-to-recycle waste, turning trash to treasure in the form of new products like park benches, purses and backpacks.

“This wrapper program is part of our ongoing focus on conservation and helps raise money for Aquarium conservation efforts,” said Jennifer Metzler-Fiorino, Education Curator. “Students can collectively take action in a simple way, and begin to think of new ways their communities can make a positive impact on our environment.”

Wrappers will be accepted at the Aquarium from 9 to 5 p.m. Nov. 1-21. Aquarium staff will try to weigh wrappers at the time of drop-off. If, however, this is not possible, an email will be sent to the contact documenting the weight.

Please note, the Aquarium welcomes all wrapper contributions during the collection period. The winning outreach program, however, is limited to one program for 30 students in Brunswick , New Hanover or Pender counties. Those donating are asked to store their wrappers in one bag only (no multiple zip-lock bags or plastic bags inside the big one).


Aquarium Free Day

News Article From: Fort Fisher on Thursday, October 23rd, 2014

The N.C. Aquarium at Fort Fisher celebrates the Veterans Day holiday by waiving admission fees on Tuesday, November 11, 2014.

Veterans Day is one of two holidays each year the N.C. Aquariums offer visitors free admission. The other is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day in January. All N.C. Aquariums also offer $1 discounts for all active duty military (with identification) throughout the year.

Don’t forget most schools are closed for the holiday, too. Children ages 5 to 12 are invited to spend a fun-filled day at AquaCamp. Space is limited.


Tuesday, November 11, 8:30 a.m. – 3 p.m.

Of over a million animal species in the world, more than 98% are invertebrates. During this session, campers will be introduced to clams, snails, crabs, sea urchins and sea stars. Live animal presentations and more are part of this exciting program. Snacks are provided. Campers will need to bring a bag lunch.

Ages 5-12. Fee: $40 per participant. PREREGISTRATION REQUIRED.


Aquarium Releases Young Loggerheads

News Article From: Fort Fisher on Thursday, October 23rd, 2014

FF-Loggerhead - New ExhibitIn what has become an annual event, the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher recently said goodbye to two yearling sea turtle animal ambassadors.

For more than a year, two baby loggerhead sea turtles helped educate more than 440,000 Aquarium visitors about the threatened species. In that time, the animals received careful monitoring and care. They grew from about the size of an Oreo cookie to bigger than a dinner plate.

“These turtles helped make a critical connection between Aquarium visitors and threatened and endangered sea turtles,” said Aquarium Curator Hap Fatzinger.

In early October, the turtles received their last veterinarian check and were cleared for release. Aquarium staff ferried the turtles approximately 35 miles off the coast and released them into a large area of sargassum seaweed, a natural sea turtle habitat with an abundance of food.

The released sea turtles arrived at the Aquarium in August 2013, when they hatched in separate nests in Carolina Beach and Fort Fisher. Instead of heading to sea, as hatchlings typically do, the turtles were discovered during routine nest excavations three days after the nests hatched. Each summer, the Aquarium works with N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission and local sea turtle rescue organizations, accepting a limited number of turtles that do not make the initial trek to the ocean.FF-hatchling-2014web

In late summer, two new hatchling loggerheads arrived at the Aquarium from a Fort Fisher nest. Husbandry staff began caring for these turtles and visitors can now see them in the Sea Turtle exhibit.

“Visitors often comment on their tiny size in comparison to the larger space where the new hatchlings swim,” said Aquarium Curator Hap Fatzinger. “Our staff takes that opportunity to make the connection between new baby turtles and the challenges and perils they face in the vast ocean.”


Toddler Tuesdays Return

News Article From: Fort Fisher on Thursday, October 23rd, 2014

NCAFF_Outreach_StorytimeToddler Tuesdays return to the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher. Pint-sized visitors will enjoy coloring and crafts, as well as free play with toys and books from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. Little ones and their caregivers can gather to hear a fish tale during periodic story times. A toddler-friendly dive show features sharks and a sea turtle at 10:30 a.m.

Toddler Tuesdays are free with aquarium admission through February.




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.”