2015-06-18 / Nature

Big Fish to Make a Splash

By Jack Kelly


This sea robin is part of the new "Big Fish of the Bay" exhibit. This sea robin is part of the new "Big Fish of the Bay" exhibit. Save The Bay’s Exploration Center and Aquarium, located at Newport’s Easton’s Beach, will unveil its newest and largest exhibit on Thursday, June 25, at 10 a.m. According to Aquarist Adam Kovarsky, “We will debut our latest exhibit, 'Big Fish of the Bay.' The New England Aquarium of Boston donated a 1,500-gallon tank that measures 13 feet long, six feet wide, and four feet deep increases the water capacity of the aquarium by 40 percent. This tank will allow us to display some of the larger fish that inhabit Narragansett Bay and Rhode Island coastal waters.”

The first resident of the tank, a 27-inch striped bass, arrived earlier this month. “This great fish was hauled in unexpectedly by students from Mary E. Fogarty Elementary School in Providence during a marine science cruise aboard Save The Bay’s M/V Elizabeth Morris. The fish got hooked on some errant fishing line on its way up in the water column. The students named it Fogarty in honor of their school,” Kovarsky said. Other current inhabitants of the tank include a black sea bass, tautog (colloquially known as blackfish), longhorn sculpin, a northern puffer, a cunner, a flounder, and a sea robin.


An American oystercatcher carries a small mollusk to its nest to feed its young. (Photos by Jack Kelly) An American oystercatcher carries a small mollusk to its nest to feed its young. (Photos by Jack Kelly) “This tank will increasingly reflect a very accurate representation of the environment of the bay, and we will be adding other game fish species as they become available. The rocks and substrate in the tank came directly from the bay and Easton’s Beach. We plan to add more habitat features found in the region, such as algae species, as well as various caves and ledges that mimic the rocky bottom ranges of Narragansett Bay created by glacial outwash more than 22,000 years ago. We also plan to apply for grants that will allow for hands-on education features at the front of the tank and create more interactive opportunities to teach visitors about climate change, fisheries in Rhode Island, and marine biology,” Kovarsky said.


Jack Kelly, a native Newporter, is a wildlife photographer and nature enthusiast who enjoys sharing his experiences with others. Jack Kelly, a native Newporter, is a wildlife photographer and nature enthusiast who enjoys sharing his experiences with others. Save The Bay’s Exploration Center and Aquarium is the only facility in Rhode Island that exclusively features Narragansett Bay marine life. It includes 25 living and non-living exhibit areas, encompassing touch tanks, an arts and crafts table, and a climate change activity center, allowing for interactive educational experiences for visitors of all ages. Kovarsky commented on the center’s role in education. “At any time, center guests can see hundreds of marine animals representing about 50 species, including Rhode Island’s endangered turtle, the diamondback terrapin, and 18 tropical fish. Caught by local fisherman and donated to the aquarium so that they would not perish during the winter months, these tropical fish offer a window into the marine life that the Gulf Stream brings to Rhode Island’s waters.”

In a recent press release, Save The Bay’s Executive Director Jonathan Stone said, “We connect our community to the bay through the many hands-on and close-up experiences at our Exploration Center and Aquarium. This new exhibit is especially exciting because it allows us to showcase some of the larger species that inhabit the bay.”

For more information on the Exploration Center and Aquarium or any of Save The Bay’s other programs, visit savebay.org or call 401- 272-3540. The center is open daily from 10 a.m.-4 p.m.

Nesting notes:

Many locally nesting avian migrants have hatched their eggs and are actively feeding and nurturing their young. One unique shorebird species, the American oystercatcher, which nests on the islands of Narragansett Bay, can be observed foraging in wetlands and along the rocky coasts of Aquidneck Island. The adult birds are seeking mussels, clams, crabs, and small fish for their offspring.

The American oystercatcher population seems to have grown in the past three nesting seasons and these colorful birds have been sighted with more frequency. With its long, reddish-orange bill, capable of opening mollusks, and its colorful plumage, this species has entertained many wildlife enthusiasts of late.

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