Sharks and Sea Turtles, Oh My!

A parading band of sharks and sea turtles wove their way through Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium Monday (July 11)  before coming to a stop at the future site of the zoo’s new Pacific Seas Aquarium.

Children in shark and sea turtle costumes perform a groundbreaking at the future site of Point Defiance Zoo's new Pacific Seas Aquarium.

Children in shark and sea turtle costumes perform a groundbreaking at the future site of Point Defiance Zoo’s new Pacific Seas Aquarium.

These costume-clad boys and girls represent future patrons of the new aquarium slated to open in summer 2018.

The 35,000 square-foot building will replace the zoo’s current 53-year-old North Pacific Aquarium for a $51.6 million price tag. The project is being largely funded by a 2014 taxpayer-funded bond measure making it the largest capital project Metro Parks Tacoma has seen in its 109-year history.

“We at Metro Parks are so indebted to our voters for approving the bond in 2014 that is building this aquarium,” said Erik Hanberg, President of the Metro Parks Tacoma Board of Commissioners.

The new facility will include a 250,000-gallon, warm water Baja Bay exhibit which will feature the sharks and sea turtles that call Baja, California home. Additionally, the current Marine Discovery Center will be transformed into a tidal touch zone where children and adults alike can get up close and personal with sea creatures.

Gary Geddes, director of Zoological and Environmental Education for Metro Parks Tacoma, gives opening remarks prior to the groundbreaking of Point Defiance Zoo's new Pacific Seas Aquarium.

Gary Geddes, director of Zoological and Environmental Education for Metro Parks Tacoma, gives opening remarks prior to the groundbreaking of Point Defiance Zoo’s new Pacific Seas Aquarium.

“It will be five times bigger (than the current touch tank) so that kids can have their hands on things, immerse themselves, and touch things in a tide pool type arrangement,” said Gary Geddes, director of Zoological and Environmental Education for Metro Parks Tacoma.

Moreover, the facility will be home to a schooling fish exhibit; a giant spider crabs exhibit; a window into the world beneath the Tacoma Narrows bridges; a tank that showcases deep-dwelling ocean animals; a coastal kelp forest; an estuary tank; as well as an education and laboratory space.

Among all of the exhibits the new aquarium will offer, Geddes is most enthusiastic about spreading ocean conservation and stewardship for generations to come. Thus there will be several conservation stations; and a waves of change area where visitors can learn to do their part in conservation.

“Even though you may think we are all about the fun side — and we love that part of it — we want to inspire conservation action,” he said. “So many things are happening in our oceans that need our support and the way that we do that is to immerse kids, at a really young age, in a great ocean-type experience.”

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is a staff writer at South Sound magazine. Email her.
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