Monday, June 30, 2008

Aquarium and Carolina Beach in Pier Talks

The N.C. Aquarium at Fort Fisher and the town of Carolina Beach are discussing a partnership that would bring an educational ocean fishing pier, called “Aquarium Pier at Carolina Beach” to the boardwalk area.

The Carolina Beach boardwalk is the keystone of the town's recent Master Development Plan. Town Manager Tim Owens calls the opportunity for a pier returning to the boardwalk area exciting, and says it would assist Carolina Beach in implementing the Master Development Plan.

Visitors and tourism-oriented businesses have mourned the rapid vanishing of fishing piers in the last decade. A succession of hurricanes in the late 1990s wiped out many of these gathering spots, favored by vacationers and locals alike. Soaring real estate values spelled the demise of others.

Fishing piers have played an important role in the culture and history of the coast, as well as in the tourism-driven economy. Aquariums Division Director David Griffin notes that the price of oceanfront real estate makes the prospect of private investment in new piers unlikely. “The North Carolina Aquariums are uniquely positioned to address this loss,” he said. “We already have well-established educational programs and facilities within an easy drive of all the major tourist beaches.”

In addition, Aquarium staff views the proposed educational pier as another avenue to advance the Aquariums’ mission of inspiring appreciation and conservation of North Carolina’s aquatic environments. “The interest in recreational fishing in the Pleasure Island area presents a wonderful opportunity to teach conservation,” said Aquarium Director Donna Moffitt. “Getting people out into their natural surroundings is the most effective form of environmental education.”

The Aquariums’ proposed pier complex would be accessible to people with disabilities and would facilitate beach access with a bathhouse. The site will likely include a tackle shop, gift shop and concessions, all operated by the N.C. Aquarium Society.

Anglers and vacationers won’t be the only potential users. The Aquarium proposes to include a two-story multipurpose pier house, exhibits, classrooms, meeting and event rooms, accommodations for other water-based activities, and staging areas for data collection and research. Among the many programs under consideration are fishing conservation workshops, beach walks, sleepovers, science camps, school programs, kayak excursions and surfing classes. “With an Aquarium Pier at Carolina Beach, we’ll be able to bring new programs to more people,” Moffitt said.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Leaving the Beach? Take Your Stuff!

Unattended beach equipment becomes a hazard for both people and sea turtles. Obstructions on the beach, which are particularly difficult to see at night, can result in injuries and impede emergency personnel responding to calls. During heavy winds, unattended beach equipment can become dangerous projectiles and litter the beach. Adult sea turtles (federally protected species) can become entangled or frustrated while attempting to nest; hatchlings can be impeded from reaching the ocean.

For example, on Bald Head Island last summer, a group of interns observed a nesting female struggling to make her way up the beach. “She ran into the kayak, toys, and chairs, and could have gotten tangled in ropes from one of those semi-permanent tents!” they reported. And pictures from Florida illustrate what can happen if a turtle is not so fortunate or persistent. By the way, the Kemp's Ridley was successfully removed, but experienced much trauma.

The following three sections were added to the Code of the Town of Kure Beach (passed unanimously at the June 17th Town Council meeting):

12-42. Definitions
Defines beach and beach equipment as used in the article. Specifically, beach equipment means "any apparatus or paraphernalia that is designed or manufactured for use, or is actually used, on the beach or in adjacent tidal waters. Examples include, without limitations: chairs, lounges, umbrellas, cabanas, tents, horseshoes and stakes, sailboats, kayaks, paddle vessels, sailboards, surfboards, fishing gear, sporting equipment, rafts, flotation devices, beach toys, baskets, bags, towels, coolers, other personal effects and equipment used by concessionaires, such as tables, podiums, booths or storage boxes. Beach equipment shall not include municipal trash containers, signage or structures placed by a government agency, items placed by bona fide conservation agency or organization (such as signs or protection devices for turtle nests or equipment approved for use by duly licensed concessionaires)."

12-43. Placement of Beach Equipment.
Unless it is in active use and personal presence of the owner or permitted user, beach equipment must be removed from the beach between the hours of 7 PM - 8 AM, year round, and placed in a lawful location. All unattended items remaining on the beach between these hours will be classified as abandoned property and will be removed and disposed of by the town.

Also, all beach equipment must be at least 15 feet from any marked or staked sea turtle nest or dune vegetation. No beach equipment may be placed within a 25 foot perimeter of an emergency access or any public beach access.

12-44. Penalty
First offense subject to $50.00 fine; second offense $100.00 fine. After the second offense can be charged with a misdemeanor (as prescribed by law).

*"Tent forest" photo by Matthew Godfrey; sea turtle photo by Zoe Bass

The Doctor has Ordered a "Stay-cation"

With gas prices soaring, many North Carolinians may decide to take a "stay-cation" this year...that is... choose to stay in NC for their summer vacations. Now, more than ever, we need to take a break — a real break, not just a long weekend — from our stressed-out lives.

Many Americans are working through their vacation time, taking fewer and shorter holidays. A global study by found that about a third of employed Americans usually do not take all the vacation days that they are entitled to, leaving an average of three days on the books.

Vacations are not simply a luxury; they're actually good for you. Recent studies show that vacations actually help you relax, de-stress and may even lead to better hearth health.

NC is fortunate to have both the mountains and the coast. So, take a "stay-cation" within your own state this summer. Visit Biltmore in the mountains and the NC Aquarium at Fort Fisher along the coast. See lions, tigers and bears...oh my at the NC Zoo in the Piedmont region. Above all...put yourself in nature, be awed by it and keep alive the quest.

*Photo by Tom Sapp

Monday, June 16, 2008

Getting Storm Ready

Hurricane season is upon us and it's time to think about supplies you'll need to ride out a storm. Among the things you'll need:

1. Water
- at least 1 gallon daily per person for 3 to 7 days
2. Food - at least enough for 3 to 7 days

3. First Aid Kit / Medicines / Prescription Drugs
4. Toiletries / Hygiene items / Moisture wipes
5. Radio - Battery operated and NOAA weather radio
6. Flashlight / Batteries

Most likely you'll need new batteries for that flashlight. So, what do you do with the old ones?
Batteries have traditionally contained large amounts of mercury and other heavy metals, which pose numerous threats to the environment. If landfilled, these metals could leach into ground water reserves and possibly contaminate surface waters and their living inhabitants. Batteries can be recycled. New Hanover County recycling drop off sites accept rechargeable batteries. The New Hanover County landfill on Highway 421 accepts household batteries for recycling as well. Simply stop at the window and they will tell you where to put them.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Think Outside the Bottle

Is bottled water safer to drink than tap water? Some say bottled water is no safer, better, cleaner, or healthier than tap water. Here are some reasons to break that bottled water habit.

1. It’s expensive.
2. Two million plastic beverage bottles are used in the US every five minutes, often piling up in landfills, discharging chemicals into the environment.
3. The making of plastic bottles uses non-renewable energy and emits toxic chemicals.
4. Transportation of bottled water releases carbon dioxide into the air and diminishes any efforts for global climate change.

So what do we do? Purchase tap water or refrigerator water filters, then refill a reusable aluminum water bottle. And, if you must buy plastic, recycle it!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Home Tweet Home

Here at the N.C. Aquarium at Fort Fisher, we have a wonderful barn swallow colony that has nested in the cement overhangs of our loading docks for over 20 years. On June 6th, a nest fell (presumably from the recent excessive heat). Five chicks were inside and, and sadly three did not survive the fall. Amazingly, two did. They were not too far from fledging age, having a good number of flight feathers already.

Horticulturist Melanie Doyle knew there was only one chance of getting them to survive: recreate a nest. She found a small plastic container, scooped most of the fallen nest material into it, then secured it to the cement beams (using a hammer drill - neighboring swallows probably did not like that!) with a wall anchor and screw. She noticed the container still moved a little, so she further secured it with duct-tape to the overhang. Melanie placed the two chicks inside and waited.

It took the adults about an hour to figure out what this new contraption was and if they could (or should!) alight on it, but they saw their chicks and did finally accept the "nest". They resumed feeding them normally and we are expected the two little ones to fledge in a week or so. It's good to know that swallows will accept an artifical nest and raise their young in it!

Monday, June 9, 2008

Green Jewelry?

Yep, there is such a thing. Jewelry businesses such as GreenKarat encourage consumers to purchase jewelry made of recycled gold because "there is enough gold above ground (already mined) to satisfy all demands of the jewelry industry for the next 50 years. Much of it sits in bank vaults and in the form of old and unused jewelry."

With gold prices at an all time high, now is a good time to sort through your jewelry box and recycle the out of date, broken or out of fashion jewelry. Many local fine jewelers such as Perry's Emporium will buy your scrap metal, including sterling silver.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Turtles Return Home

Several NC Aquarium at Fort Fisher staff members assisted with the release of sixteen rehabilitated sea turtles from the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue & Rehabilitation Center in Topsail Beach on June 3. In all, 16 turtles including four green turtles, three Kemp's Ridleys and nine loggerheads returned home. As Aquarium staff carried "Lookout" to sea, about 600 onlookers cheered and snapped photos. Lookout took to the water immediately, and swam away in the surf.

Three of the released turtles were brought to the Aquarium in April for a test swim. Bradley, a loggerhead, was found severely injured in Bradley Creek. She had been struck by a boat. She is missing one flipper. Jersey, a Kemp's Ridley, lost a flipper in a fishing net in New Jersey. Canal was bitten by a shark and found in a canal on Ocean Isle Beach. She lost two flippers and a chunk of her shell.

Monday, June 2, 2008

World Ocean Day - June 8

Ocean covers 75% of Earth’s surface. This immense body of saltwater fills five basins known as the Atlantic, Pacific, Indian, Arctic, and Antarctic oceans. Seventy percent of all available oxygen – the air we breathe – comes from oceanic phytoplankton. Without Ocean, life on Earth would not exist. World Ocean Day began in 1992 and continues to grow as an annual opportunity to highlight the incomparable and invaluable role of the Ocean in the existence of life on Earth. In 2007, President Bush declared June World Ocean Month, in this spirit the N.C. Aquarium at Fort Fisher will kick off the celebration on Sunday, June 8.

Aquarium visitors can learn about the Ocean every day. Starting June 8 and continuing throughout the month, special programs emphasize how the Ocean affects us, and how we affect the Ocean. At the end of each public program, three times daily, visitors can sign a pledge committing them to make a difference; by conserving energy; consuming consciously; communicating Ocean information; challenging themselves to walk and carpool; connecting in the community through volunteerism; and finally by celebrating the Ocean! Visitors can also sign the pledge while creating Ocean crafts in Aquarium classrooms. Don’t miss the Seven Seas Pledge Dance created by Aquarium educators. In addition, visitors can view winning regional works of art submitted for Coastal America’s Ocean Literacy Art Contest. Each artist, ranging from kindergarten through undergraduate level, submitted work illustrating one of seven essential principles of Ocean Literacy.

Learn about thanking the Ocean at; commit to protecting the Ocean at; find Coastal Ecosystem Learning Centers around the country at