One of the more exquisite ironies, and notable collateral calamities of Hurricane Katrina, is that almost 10,000 fish in New Orleans’ Audubon Aquarium of the Americas were, in essence, drowned by the effects of the storm.
While the acclaimed aquarium itself — nestled on the banks of the Mississippi River in the French Quarter of New Orleans — survived the storm relatively unscathed, its life support system did not, and most of the animals in its aquatic exhibits were lost due to generator problems. The sea otters, penguins, leafy and weedy sea dragons, some fishes, and sea turtles, thankfully, survived.
In the spirit of fishy camaraderie, in response to the disaster, Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium offered the use of its 85’ research vessel, the R/V Coral Reef II, to help New Orleans repopulate its decimated aquatic collection. On March 3, Shedd staff members joined those from Audubon, San Francisco’s Aquarium of the Bay, and Ripley’s Aquarium in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, on a journey that yielded some 400 tropical fish including angelfish, black durgeon, yellowtail snapper, and sergeant majors for Audubon’s Caribbean Tunnel exhibit. Hello Nemo.
This week, the collection team focuses on the offshore waters of Louisiana, finding animals for the Gulf of Mexico exhibit. Next up: the Florida Keys for more tropicals.
The Audubon Aquarium of the Americas is expected to reopen this summer, but longing fans can support the cause by visiting the gift shop online, donating to the Feed the Fish Fund, or participating in the Adopt a Fish campaign (sea nettles are a bargain at only $35!).