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National Aquarium’s Blacktip Reef Thrives In Its First Six Months


Since opening six months ago, the National Aquarium’s $12.5 million Blacktip Reef exhibit is not only boosting attendance at the popular Baltimore attraction, but also its reputation as a leading conservation-focused organization. Data from an ongoing national survey conducted by IMPACTS Research & Development shows the opening of Blacktip Reef has further enhanced the National Aquarium’s reputation as a leading aquarium in the United States. Achieving the highest reputational ranking since this research has been collected, the Aquarium has risen from being perceived nationwide as one of the “top five” aquariums to solidifying its position in the number two slot of the “top three” aquariums in the U.S. 

Moreover, the Aquarium has steadily increased its satisfaction-related metrics, indicating a better overall experience for visitors. “Satisfaction” is a composite metric comprised of numerous public perception data collected by IMPACTS related to the Aquarium's admission value, education experience, entertainment experience, employee courtesy and other criteria concerning the on-site visitor experience. IMPACTS collects real-time data from a nationwide representative sample of the American public concerning consumer attitudes and behaviors with a particular emphasis on leisure-time pursuits such as visiting a zoo, aquarium or museum. The comparative set of organizations contemplated in the data is comprised of 224 visitor-serving organizations, including 28 aquariums.

The National Aquarium has welcomed an impressive 381,530 visitors in the six months after the opening of Blacktip Reef on August 8, 2013. More than 46,000 students have encountered the new exhibit and, along with all guests, have had the opportunity to enjoy more than 1,400 interactive presentations, shark feedings, diver talks and education carts (approximately eight per day).

As part of an ongoing partnership with Discovery Channel, National Aquarium’s live Shark Cam has reached over 2.6 million viewers at and

“When you look closely at how Blacktip Reef has impacted the National Aquarium in the brief time it’s been open, it is clear that the investment was a wise one,” said Aquarium CEO John Racanelli. “Not only has this beautiful exhibit significantly enhanced our guest experience, it has inspired our guests to care about Indo-Pacific coral reefs and their inhabitants, and to feel they have a stake in our important work to preserve and protect them.”

Not only has Blacktip Reef improved the National Aquarium experience, the exhibit is thriving as an integrated, self-contained habitat for 779 animals representing 70 species including blacktip reef sharks, clown triggerfish, tasseled wobbegongs, humphead wrasse, stingrays, a green sea turtle and more. The exhibit is still just as breathtaking as the day it opened due to the hard work of the 66 dedicated staff members, husbandry volunteers and dive tenders who keep the exhibit running smoothly.

Located in the heart of the Aquarium, the 260,000-gallon exhibit replicating Indo-Pacific reefs offers an up close and unique way to experience an environment of sharks and an endangered coral ecosystem without traveling thousands of miles or getting wet. Guests visiting the National Aquarium can enjoy the exhibit from many vantage points, including a floor-to-ceiling pop-out viewing window that allows guests to virtually step inside the exhibit and come face-to-face with the magnificent animal species and corals. At the end of their Blacktip Reef visit, guests can share their experience on a new interactive wall by uploading photos and comments, and by making personal commitments to ocean health.

For more information on Blacktip Reef, including photos and a live-streaming shark cam, visit

Exhibits, Education, Conservation