Grant Will Help
Setting for Seals
NMFS Northeast Fisheries Science Center
N E W SWoods Hole, Mass. – The Edward Bangs Kelley and Elza Kelley Foundation has awarded a $7,500 grant to support the building of a new seal habitat at the Woods Hole Science Aquarium located at NOAA Fisheries’ Northeast Fisheries Science Center. The new seal facility will be on the site of the present seal pool in front of the aquarium on Water Street.
Kelley Foundation is a Cape Cod organization that makes grants to support projects that promote the health and welfare of inhabitants of Barnstable county.
“The grant from the Kelley Foundation is much appreciated,” said Dr. John Boreman NOAA Fisheries’ Northeast Fisheries Science Center acting director of science and research. The Center’s Woods Hole laboratory houses the aquarium. “The seals are among the most popular residents of the village, and they need and deserve a better facility.”
The aquarium is visited by 150,000 people per year, including 12,000 children in school groups. “The seals are equally popular with tourists and with locals,” Boreman said. “A lot of people stop in regularly to see how they are doing.”
The aquarium holds seals that cannot be released to the wild. The current resident is a 6-year old female, Coco, that cannot be released owing to a life-threatening ear infection. The habitat improvement project will provide a larger pool and a more natural setting in which Coco and future residents can live more comfortably. The new habitat will provide better access to the animals by staff and visitors alike.
The current seal holding facility was built in 1959 and consists of a 4,000 gallon outdoor cement pool. The new habitat will include a 20,000 gallon tank with a rocky shoreline to provide more naturalistic haul-out sites. Clear viewing panels will offer aquarium visitors above and below water views of the seals. The project also includes construction of a poolside area for food preparation and for housing animals when off display.
Work is expected to begin this winter at an estimated cost of $450,000. In addition to the Kelley Foundation grant, $300,000 of federal funds have been designated for the project, which means that more than half the funds are in-hand. Anyone interested in supporting the project can contact the aquarium development office at 508 495-2378.
The aquarium has been part of the federal fisheries laboratory in Woods Hole since the 1800s. In 2000, NOAA Fisheries, the Marine Biological Laboratory, and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution entered into an agreement to develop programs jointly at the aquarium, which was then renamed the Woods Hole Science Aquarium. The three institutions are seeking to develop programs at the aquarium that increase public interest in and understanding of marine science and the marine environment.