E-Newsletter Articles

May 2012

GiveBIG to the Seattle Aquarium today!


Today (May 2, 2012) is GiveBIG, a community-wide giving challenge created by The Seattle Foundation. You can be part of the largest giving event in King County by supporting the Seattle Aquarium today!

Your donation is stretched through GiveBIG!

  • The Seattle Foundation and local sponsors will match a share of every contribution made through GiveBIG.
  • You can win a Golden Ticket for the Aquarium. During the day, if your donation is chosen, the Aquarium will receive an additional $1,000!

Thank you in advance for giving big. With your help, we can continue to Inspire Conservation of our Marine Environment. Visit us on Facebook to share why you chose to GiveBIG.



Splash!, our 21st annual fundraising gala benefitting the Seattle Aquarium’s mission, Inspiring Conservation of our Marine Environment, is just around the corner on June 1, 2012. Honorary Chairs Chad & Jennifer Mackay, El Gaucho, and the Seattle Aquarium Board of Directors would like to thank our generous sponsors including Title Sponsor, The Boeing Company, and Presenting Sponsor, Snoqualmie Tribe, who are leading the way to help us reach our nearly $700,000 goal.

The event starts with one of Seattle’s best silent auctions and a lively cocktail hour set among the spectacular exhibits of the Aquarium. Guests will be able to visit our sea otters on Pier 60 to truly appreciate this year’s featured animal. The group then departs for a delectable dinner and live auction at the Seattle Marriott Waterfront.

Splash! attracts over 600 of Puget Sound’s key civic and philanthropic leaders, with a goal to educate and encourage the mission of the Aquarium. Tickets range from $150 (reception only) to $500 (patron level) per person. For more information visit our website.

Shark for Shark’s Sake

Sixgill Sharks

One of the most frequent questions our visitors ask is why the Seattle Aquarium doesn’t have sharks on exhibit. The short answer is that we do—small ones, such as dogfish, swim in our underwater dome. But what our guests really mean is, why don’t we have big sharks—the ones you see on TV!

All sharks need an enclosure large enough to allow them to swim in a straight line for at least five to six times the length of their own bodies—otherwise, they bump into the sides of the exhibit causing them harm. Our underwater dome provides enough space for smaller, two-to-three-foot long sharks, but an exhibit big enough for larger species (some grow to 20 feet or more in length) would need to hold over a million gallons of water and our current aquarium in total has about 600,000 gallons.

But just because we don’t big sharks on display doesn’t mean there aren’t big sharks at the Aquarium—or, more precisely, under it. Puget Sound and the Pacific beyond boast some of the oldest species of shark on record. Known as “fossil sharks,” sixgill sharks haven’t changed much over the past 200 million years, unlike their more modern five gill brethren such as great whites, hammerheads, and blue sharks.

Between 2003 and 2005, the Seattle Aquarium and NOAA’s Northwest Fisheries Science Center in partnership with the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife conducted research on the population of sixgill sharks living in Puget Sound. Every other month for 36 hours, the Aquarium set up cameras, put out bait at the end of our pier, and observed via video analysis, 272 sixgills, successfully tagging 45 of those animals. The federal and State researchers, meanwhile, were catching and tagging even more-over 300. In other words there were a lot of sharks! These animals had two things in common: they were all juveniles (between 7-8 feet long), and many of them were siblings.

Since 2008 (after five years of monitoring) we have not seen the sharks under our pier.

Why did they go? And will they come back? We don’t have answers to these questions yet, but we have a hypothesis: Puget Sound might be a nursery habitat where sixgills are born and remain together until they reach a size at which they migrate to open ocean. Eventually, the pregnant females return to give birth. Sixgill litters are big—it’s not uncommon for a female to birth up to 100 pups at a time. Once they pup, the adult female leaves her litter to raise themselves, and the cycle repeats.

That’s the theory for now, although there is simply too little data to form hard conclusions. For this reason, the Aquarium continues to monitor for sixgill shark presence in the region. We are keeping an eye out for signs of another “baby boom” in the sixgill population, and we stand ready to steer additional research on this little-known shark population, should they ever return.

Cleaning the beach in West Seattle

Beach Clean-up - Alki

April 21st was the sunniest, warmest day Seattle has seen all year with nearly 200 volunteers gathering to celebrate Earth Day weekend. The volunteers are employed by The Boeing Company and Kohl’s. Both companies worked in partnership with the Aquarium to plan a meaningful event where their employees could positively affect our marine environment.

While most people have enjoyed Alki Beach—its neighboring beaches, Constellation Park and Cormorant Cove, are less well-known. The dedicated volunteers walked the three beaches with buckets and trash grabbers to remove any debris that might pose harm to the water, the animals, and the people that enjoy and depend upon the health of this environment.

Volunteers also carried tracking sheets to tally the amount of debris they removed. While it was not surprising that there were endless cigarette butts and plastic bags, they also found other harmful and out-of-place items such as tires, nets, diapers, car parts, and even a rat trap. In total, the volunteers removed almost 400 pounds of debris from the beaches.

Volunteer help is a huge contribution to helping keep our marine environment clean and healthy, and Kohl’s and Boeing volunteers definitely had a meaningful impact. When we have clean oceans and ecosystems, every day will be Earth Day.

Suquamish Students Expand Local Science

Suquamish Students

Students at Suquamish Early College High School are gearing up for the cold and wet spring to collect data from their local beaches. These students, who are part of the Aquarium’s Citizen Science program, fill a valuable need in their local community– their work provides data to evaluate the health of local waters. Dressed in their yellow rain slickers and rubber boots, the students visit tribal beaches to conduct shellfish surveys and monitor the marine species found in the nearshore environment.

Ocean acidification and marine pollution has already affected the establishment of shellfish on some Puget Sound beaches, resulting in direct impacts on tribal communities. NorthWest Indian News recently featured a story about shellfish harvests and the beach survey completed by the Suquamish High School Students. The work of these young marine conservationists was also featured at the Summit on the Ocean & Coasts in Washington D.C. and the Coastal Zone 2011 Conference in Chicago in 2011. The teens created a video showcasing their work and the impact ocean acidification is having on tribal communities.

The Seattle Aquarium is proud of the hard work done by these students to raise awareness of ocean acidification’s impact on their tribe’s economy, environment and culture. This program is supported by the generous grants provided by The Russell Family Foundation, The Boeing Company, The Tulalip Tribe Charitable Trust and Wells Fargo.

Why I am a High School Volunteer


Anja is a high school volunteer at the Aquarium who has a passion for our world’s oceans: “Breathing in the salty air, I feel the wind blow against my face leaving red marks on my cheeks. As I stand facing Puget Sound I realize that this is what I am called to do. Our oceans need a hero, and I want that hero to be me.

A short seven years ago, I first set foot in the Aquarium as a curious 5th grader, passionate about the environment and committed to saving the world. Over the next few weeks, as I spent more time at the Aquarium, my eyes were opened to a whole new world. I knew that as soon as I was old enough, I wanted to be part of the Aquarium community and learn more about the deep blue world.

Four years later I was doing exactly that as a high school volunteer. As my knowledge of the marine world grew, so did my passion for the oceans. I loved sharing my enthusiasm for the ocean over my four sessions as a volunteer, but I realized that simply sharing my love wasn’t enough. So I and a group of my fellow volunteers started the youth-run campaign called “Puget Sound (PS): We Love You” to inspire others to save our oceans.

The Aquarium set me on the path to follow my true passion for the ocean, and acquire the skills to start saving the oceans now. As I am about to embark on my college journey, I am proud to say I intend to major in Environmental Engineering with a background in marine biology and oceanography. Thanks Seattle Aquarium!”

A Message from our President/CEO

Sue Coliton of the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation recently wrote an OpEd piece in the Seattle Times about “bright spots” in our region’s arts and culture sector. The piece referenced a report that sought to discover what some organizations are doing to thrive despite the conditions created by the struggling economy. The research found that “bright spot” organizations shared a few traits – transparent leadership, honest assessment, commitment to community, flexibility and adeptness.

At the Seattle Aquarium we aspire to the “bright spot” characteristics Ms. Coliton identifies. We recognize that times are tough for many people, but we have managed to sustain the learning opportunities offered to children and families – especially those from disadvantaged populations. In fact, we took steps to become more efficient and improve our programming. We moved forward with a transition from being run by the city to operating via a nonprofit in 2010; we have charted a course in our new Strategic Plan to sharply increase our programs and impact in service to our mission, Inspiring Conservation of our Marine Environment; and this year we have launched a capital project to improve the exhibit housing our harbor seals.

The Puget Sound region has many “bright spots” – organizations that see opportunity in many situations and strive to create a strong arts and culture sector for our community. I am confident these will help lead us into an exciting future of innovation and growth.