NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The aquarium in New Orleans says its big new touch pool will open Oct. 5, with nine kinds of sharks and rays.
The 13,000-gallon (49,200-liter) pool will be about six times the size of the current ray touch pool, the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas said in a news release.
Kids and adults will be able to touch zebra sharks, coral catsharks, white spotted bamboo sharks, epaulette sharks, southern stingrays, Atlantic guitarfish, bullnose rays, blue-spotted stingrays, and cownose stingrays. They’re usually wary of people. But these have been trained to swim up to touch hands reaching into the water or have learned to do it by watching others.
A huge screen will run along one side of the 60-foot-long (18-meter) pool, with interactive programs describing the fish in the pool and their importance in their ecosystems. The sides are about 3 feet (1 meter) high and the water 2½ feet (0.75 meters) deep. There are two 15-foot-long (4.5-meter-long) clear side panels.
Sharks and rays are among fish which don’t have bones. Their skeletons are made of cartilage.
Shark-fin soup is the biggest threat to sharks — tens of millions are killed each year for their fins.
Sharks and rays are particularly vulnerable to overfishing because, like people, they grow slowly, mature late and don’t have many babies.
Laws against cutting off the fins and throwing the bodies back into the ocean don’t appear to have reduced the annual take, let alone bringing it to a level that would ensure the species can survive, according to a study published in 2013. It estimated that about 100 million sharks were taken from the ocean in 2000 and about 97 million in 2010.