So Much More

The Texas State Aquarium may be one of the top places to see animals in the nation, but the aquarium also works tirelessly to further its conservation efforts to improve the lives of animals and people throughout the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea.

By: Richard E. Glover Jr.

It’s true that the Texas State Aquarium is the No. 1 cultural attraction in the Coastal Bend and has been honored with increasing frequency on lists of the top aquariums in the nation. However, the Texas State Aquarium has grown into so much more than a fine place to see more than 3,000 animals representing more than 300 species. It has also become a center for conservation and education that impacts lives of animals and people all around the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea.

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One of the most visible ways the aquarium has an impact beyond its grounds its Second Chances Wildlife Rehabilitation Program, through which the aquarium treats hundreds of sick and injured animals annually. Those that can be successfully rehabilitated are then released back into their natural environment; if they are deemed non-releasable, they are either transferred to other accredited Association of Zoo and Aquarium (AZA) facilities or welcomed into the aquarium’s animal family. In 2015, a record 86 animals were released back into nature, and four were transferred to other facilities. The program is currently on pace to break that record in 2016.

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Another program that is less well-known, but has also proven quite impactful around the Gulf of Mexico is the aquarium’s Wildlife Care, Conservation and Research (WCCR) Fund. Every year, a portion of the aquarium’s net revenue is directed toward funding research and programs primarily that focus on species that are native to the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea. Through this fund, the aquarium has helped support research on such important topics, including (but not limited to):

• Tagging, tracking and research of large sharks in the region
• Saving the Vaquita, the world’s most endangered marine mammal and the smallest porpoise, of which only 60 remain
• Creating a human-made pond to help re-establish a larger whooping crane population
• Improving water quality in Oso Creek/Bay, Corpus Christi Bay and Petronila Creek
• Optimizing coral fragmentation technique for propagation

Additionally, the aquarium endeavors to have a positive impact on the environment through a broad range of practices and initiatives both onsite and offsite. Its onsite green practices are extensive and focus on areas such as energy conservation, water conservation, recycling, environmentally friendly restaurant operations and landscaping. The aquarium reviews its practices on a regular basis and makes changes to reduce its impact on the environment. In addition, the aquarium works hard at conservation education and public outreach both on- and offsite.

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The aquarium staff undertakes several cleanups of North Beach wetlands and streets every year. The aquarium has also adopted Packery Channel Park on Upper Padre Island, and it conducts periodic staff and volunteer clean-ups there. Additionally, the aquarium acts as the North Beach host three times a year for the Texas General Land Office’s Adopt-a-Beach events. All of these efforts result in the removal of more than 20,000 pounds trash from our local environment every year.

The aquarium also holds several environmentally focused public events designed educate and inform guests about threats to the health of our local, regional and global environments, as well as inspire them to take actions to help take care of the environment – all while having a good time enjoying special activities and programming. Among the environmentally focused public events held at the aquarium annually are an Earth Day “Party for the Planet” celebration, Endangered Species Day, World Oceans Day, World Wetlands Day, International Save the Vaquita Day and Green Halloween.

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Meanwhile, the aquarium’s Flint Hills Resources Center for Excellence in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) Education continues to impact the lives of more than 65,000 learners of all ages annually. Through the center, the aquarium offers a diverse range of both onsite and offsite educational programs designed to excite, intrigue and challenge.

The Texas State Aquarium continues to endeavor to find new ways to grow its conservation and education impact locally and regionally on a continual basis as it works toward achieving its vision of becoming a global leader in fostering support for the conservation of the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea.

The Texas State Aquarium is located at 2701 N. Shoreline Blvd. in Corpus Christi, Texas. For more information, call 361-881-1200 or email mermaid@txstateaq.org.

Photos courtesy of Texas State Aquarium

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