The Aquarium’s 30-year history of conservation begins local and spans the globe. From our Marine Animal Rescue Program to our Chesapeake Bay Initiative, the Aquarium is dedicated to service to the environment.
Click here to download a full Conservation Fact Sheet PDF (170 KB).
The National Aquarium in Baltimore generates $314 million in annual economic impact for the Baltimore and Maryland, demonstrating that the National Aquarium, Baltimore, is an integral part of the vibrant Inner Harbor community.
Click here to download a full Economic Impact Fact Sheet PDF (125 KB).
Click here to view the National Aquarium economic impact study assessment PDF in its entirety (1.4 MB).
The National Aquarium strives to implement green conservation action programs through the establishment of environmentally friendly business practices and by undertaking conservation initiatives that stretch far beyond the Aquarium walls.
Click here to download a full Green Business Fact Sheet PDF (187 KB).
Located in the heart of Inner Harbor, the National Aquarium, Baltimore, is home to more than 16,000 animals and more than 660 species.
Click here to download a full Baltimore Venue Fact Sheet PDF (178 KB).
Washington, DC Venue
The National Aquarium, Washington, D.C., located in the lower level of the Commerce Building, showcases more than 1,500 specimens and 250 species.
Click here to download a full Washington, D.C. Fact Sheet PDF (190 KB).
Hands-on experiences combined with thousands of student visits each year provides young people with the opportunity to learn about the wonders of the earth.
Click here to download a full Education Fact Sheet PDF (128 KB).
The National Aquarium is an aquatic education and conservation organization with two locations and one mission: to inspire conservation of the world's aquatic treasures.
In 2003, separate aquariums in Baltimore, MD, and Washington, DC, joined as one "National Aquarium." The National Aquarium venues together hold living collections that include more than 16,000 animals from more than 660 species of fish, birds, amphibians, reptiles and marine mammals living in award-winning, naturalistic habitats.
Transforming experiences reach well beyond the Aquariums' walls. Education teams reach thousands of students each year with activities in schools and in the field; conservation crews and volunteers restore habitats and preserve species around the Chesapeake Bay and around the world; and the National Aquarium venues continue to serve as an economic engine for tourism in the city of Baltimore and as a unique draw in downtown Washington, DC. Through all of its work, the National Aquarium maintains its long-time commitment to serving the surrounding communities.
Baltimore Venue History
The Aquarium actually "began" in the mid-1970s when former Baltimore Mayor William Donald Schaefer and the Commissioner of Housing and Community Development, Robert C. Embry, conceived and championed the idea of an aquarium as a vital component of Baltimore's overall Inner Harbor redevelopment scheme. In 1976, Baltimore City residents supported the Aquarium by voting for it on a bond referendum, and the groundbreaking for the facility took place on Pier 3 in the City's Inner Harbor on August 8, 1978.
As early as November 1979, the Aquarium's world-class status was recognized by the United States Congress, which granted the facility "national" status. The National Aquarium in Baltimore opened to the public on August 8, 1981, after three years of construction.
The land and the building are owned by the City of Baltimore. The Aquarium is run by a nonprofit corporation, the National Aquarium in Baltimore, Inc., which currently consists of a volunteer Board of Governors and larger Advisory Board, plus a full-time paid staff of nearly 300. Under the terms of its management agreement with the City, the goal of the nonprofit corporation is to remain totally self-supporting for operations.
The Aquarium is Maryland's largest paid tourist attraction, and the economic impact of Aquarium visitors on the State of Maryland has been tremendous. A study by the Maryland Department of Economic and Employment Development determined that the Aquarium annually generates nearly $220 million in revenues, 2,000 jobs, and $6.8 million in State and local taxes.
The National Aquarium, Baltimore, features three pavilions of exciting attractions and a living collection including more than 16,000 animals from more than 660 species of fish, birds, amphibians, reptiles and marine mammals that live in award-winning habitats. The venue also offers exclusive behind-the-scenes experiences such as sleepovers and special tours. The Aquarium partners with other community attractions and restaurants to optimize the visitor experience in Baltimore.
Washington, DC, Venue History
The National Aquarium, Washington, DC, is the nation’s first public Aquarium. It was established in 1873 in Wood’s Hole, Massachusetts, as a federal entity under the Federal Fish Commission. In 1878, it was moved to the site of the Washington Monument and consisted of holding ponds known to locals as the “Carp Ponds.” By 1903, the Federal Fish Commission became the Bureau of Fisheries under the Department of Commerce. In 1932, the National Aquarium was incorporated into the lower level of the Commerce Building. It still inhabits that space today as a private, nonprofit museum.
In 1982, federal funds were eliminated from the operating budget for the National Aquarium. Threatened with closing, the National Aquarium Society was formed to keep the National Aquarium operating. In 2003, the National Aquarium Society Board of Directors signed an alliance agreement with the Board of Directors of the National Aquarium in Baltimore, enabling the two aquariums to work together to strengthen the animal collection and educational impact of the Aquarium.
In 2004, initial planning for the National Aquarium, Washington, DC, renovation project took place with receipt of two grants from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The first and most critical undertaking was to address water quality issues and the condition of the exhibits and the back areas. In 2005, life support and back-of-house processes were revamped and our laboratory was updated to include cutting edge equipment for water analysis and animal health diagnostics.
In 2006, the thematic identity of the Aquarium was determined and exhibit plans were focused on America’s Aquatic Treasures, highlighting the animals and habitats of the National Marine Sanctuary Program and freshwater ecosystems of the U.S. A portion of the exhibit space was also dedicated to conservation hot spots such as the Amazon and invasive species.
In 2008, the National Aquarium, Washington, DC, was named the “Best Downtown Experience” by the Washington, DC, Business Improvement District. Today, the Aquarium is home to more than 1,500 animals from 250 species including sharks, eels, alligators, amphibians, and an adorable “head start” loggerhead turtle.
An Extreme Makeover
In 2004, initial planning for the National Aquarium, Washington, DC, renovation project took place with receipt of a $573,000 grant from NOAA. The first and most critical undertaking was to address water quality issues and the condition of the tanks and the back areas. In 2005, life support and back-of-house processes were revamped and the new laboratory was built.
In 2006, the thematic identity of the Aquarium was determined and exhibit plans were focused on America's Aquatic Treasures, highlighting the animals and habitats of the National Marine Sanctuary Program and freshwater ecosystems of the U.S. A portion of the exhibit space was also to be dedicated to conservation hot spots such as the Amazon and invasive species.
Renovation of six tanks was underway and by this stage, animal husbandry was gaining increased attention and utilizing new resources. The Aquarium Gift Shop was moved to expanded space and completely refurbished using wall finishings, cabinetry and shelving repurposed from the Aquarium's Baltimore site.
In 2007, exhibit construction took a front seat. Many of the exhibits were fabricated in-house while others were constructed by vendors and shipped complete. New and increased numbers of animals were introduced to the collection. New graphics were introduced in the galleries and public space was renovated including a new modern lobby area, new flooring and upgraded wall treatments.
In 2008, final work continued on exhibit buildout with the last tanks arriving in April. Exterior and entry signage was recast and replaced in June to conclude the renovation. In 2008, the National Aquarium, Washington, DC, was named the "Best Downtown Experience" by the Washington, DC, Business Improvement District. Today the Aquarium is home to more than 250 species including sharks, eels, alligators, amphibians and adorable "head start" loggerhead turtles.
In 2012, new construction began on the Aquarium's latest project, Blacktip Reef. This vibrant new exhibit will open in summer 2013 in Baltimore. This coral-filled exhibit, replicating a salt-water Indo-Pacific ocean habitat, will feature animals new to National Aquarium, including blacktip reef sharks, reticulated whiptail rays and ornate wobbegong sharks, as well as some of National Aquarium's most beloved animals, including Calypso, the 400-pound green sea turtle, and zebra sharks Zeke and Zoe.
John C. Racanelli
Chief Executive Officer
As chief executive officer, John Racanelli leads a team of 600 full and part-time employees and 1,000 volunteers in pursuing the National Aquarium’s mission to inspire conservation of the world’s aquatic treasures. More than 1.5 million people annually visit the Aquarium’s venues in Baltimore, Maryland, and Washington, DC, while millions more are touched by the Aquarium’s education programs, outreach activities, social media campaigns and conservation initiatives.
A passionate advocate for the ocean, John strives to drive conservation action worldwide, ensure the success of one of the nation’s leading aquarium enterprises, and fundamentally change the way the world views the ocean and aquatic systems.
John joined the National Aquarium in July 2011 after 10 years as president of Racanelli Partners, Inc. The San Francisco-based consulting firm served the needs of nonprofit leaders nationally and globally, focusing on cultural and conservation organizations including Mission Blue/Sylvia Earle Alliance, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and the Surfrider Foundation.
After co-founding Mission Blue with author and oceanographer Dr. Sylvia Earle, John assisted her in developing and launching Google Ocean, Google’s most significant enhancement of Google Earth, the most popular earth visualization tool in existence.
Prior to founding his firm, John spent 16 years in leadership positions at U.S. aquariums. He was the first CEO of the Florida Aquarium in Tampa, where he built the facility, team and vision for Tampa Bay’s leading cultural attraction. He also served for nine years on the leadership team of the world-renowned Monterey Bay Aquarium as its vice president of marketing and development, joining the aquarium a year before its opening. While in college, John began his career as a diver and aquarist, an experience that he credits with giving him great appreciation for the work of everyone on the aquarium team.
Fluent in Spanish, John holds a degree in strategic management from Dominican University of California. He is a SCUBA diver, open-water swimmer, sailor and surfer. His weekly radio show and podcast on WYPR public radio, “A Blue View,” explores important issues related to the aquatic world. John and his family are proud residents of Canton, Baltimore’s historic waterfront district.
Vice President/Chief Financial Officer
As chief financial officer of the National Aquarium, Bruce Hoffberger oversees Finance and Accounting, Information Technology, Administrative Affairs, Human Resources, risk management, and contractual relationships.
Before joining the National Aquarium, he was treasurer and chief financial officer of the Enterprise Foundation, Inc. (now called Enterprise Community Partners), an entrepreneurial nonprofit organization focused on supportive housing. Prior to that, he was vice president and chief financial officer of Zurich Personal Insurance, a business unit of Zurich Group, and audit partner with Ernst & Young. In addition, as a certified public accountant, he has actively worked with nonprofit organizations as a volunteer and as an independent financial consultant.
A lifelong Baltimore-area resident, Hoffberger earned a B.S. in accounting from the University of Maryland and an MBA from the University of Miami.
He has volunteered and held offices in various nonprofit institutions for more than 25 years, including the Associated Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore; the Advisory Board for the Robert H. Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland; National Multiple Sclerosis Society, Maryland Chapter; Sinai Hospital; the Jewish Volunteer Connection; and the Jewish Community Center of Greater Baltimore.
He is a past president of the Hoffberger Foundation, Inc., which is dedicated to responding to unmet needs in the greater Baltimore community and supporting initiatives in Israel.
When not working, Hoffberger enjoys flying, road biking, classical music, and reading fiction. He and his wife, Caren, live in Pikesville with their children, Corie and Bret, and their rescued cats.
Kathy A. Sher
Vice President for External Affairs
Kathy Sher, deputy director of External Affairs, has been with the Aquarium for more than 25 years. Her Aquarium experience includes executive management and administration, strategic planning, fundraising, marketing, visitor services, retail management, and private consulting. Her duties have also included direction and management of auxiliary revenue areas, development, corporate sponsorship, membership, retail, and food service.
Currently her focus is directed toward public funding for the Aquarium’s complex multimillion-dollar capital improvements. She also serves as a liaison to the National Aquarium Board of Directors and the community.
Widely experienced in the fundraising and marketing of nonprofit attractions, Sher has served as a consultant for many institutions, including the Audubon Zoological Park in New Orleans, the Monterey Bay Aquarium in California, the Tennessee Aquarium in Chattanooga, and the South Carolina Aquarium.
In her External Affairs role, the Aquarium has increased its already strong commitment to the citizens of the City and State. She serves on a number of statewide and community boards, including the Governor’s Maryland Tourism Development Board, the American Visionary Art Museum Board, and the Aspire Fundraising Committee for the benefit of the Cal Ripken, Sr. Foundation.
Sher has been a pioneer in mentoring other women and helping them to establish themselves in their fields. She has a B.S. degree from Edinboro College and an M.S. degree from Duquesne University. She lives in Ruxton with her husband.
Vice President/Chief Operating Officer
Vice President/Chief Marketing Officer
Steven Schindler brings to the National Aquarium more than 20 years of experience developing marketing programs. He has held key marketing positions with Bally’s Las Vegas and Contiki Holidays, where he worked on assignment in London, England, developing U.S. inbound tour programs. He also developed advertising programs for destination marketing organizations, attractions and hotels and resorts with San Diego and San Francisco Bay Area advertising agencies.
In 1992, he founded his own California-based marketing firm, Schindler Marketing Group, Inc., and served as president and creative director for 16 years before focusing his communications and marketing skills in the digital world.
In 2006, Schindler co-founded Sasa Technologies, where he launched two online businesses and spearheaded digital commerce transactions that strengthen business-to-business relationship development, led negotiations with content and distribution partners, and directed online search engine initiatives that optimize online presence and marketing opportunities.
Most recently, he was the vice president of marketing of Local.com Corporation, a leading online media company that connects small and medium businesses and national advertisers with more than 25 million monthly unique visitors. He led that organization’s successful online relaunch; launched the corporation’s daily deals site, Spreebird.com; and led all strategic marketing planning and communications for its diverse consumer and digital businesses.
Schindler earned his Bachelor of Science degrees in marketing and public relations from San Diego State University and studied international business at the University of Copenhagen, Denmark.
National Aquarium Institute Board of Directors
Mr. Marc Bunting
Mr. Robert E. Carter (Chair-Elect)
Mrs. Jane W. I. Droppa
Mr. Michael Dunmyer
Ms. Ann T. Gallant
Mr. Andrew L. Good (Secretary)
Mr. Randall M. Griffin
Mr. Frank A. Gunther, Jr. (Life Director)
Mr. Mohannad F. Jishi (Treasurer)
Mr. Donald S. Pettit
Mr. J. Scott Plank
Mr. John C. Racanelli (CEO)
Ms. Jennifer W. Reynolds (Chair)
Mr. K. Lee Riley, Jr.
Mr. Thomas E. Robinson
Ms. Anna L. Smith
Ms. Tamika Langley Tremaglio (Vice Chair)
Ms. C. Elizabeth Wagner
1st Maryland attraction to be part of the Maryland Green Travel program
Presented by: Maryland Green Travel - Developed through a partnership of the Maryland Office of Tourism, the Maryland Department of the Environment and the Maryland Tourism Council in support of the Smart, Green and Growing initiative.
ADDY Awards (8 Wins: 7 Gold - 1 Silver)
Presented by: 37th Annual ADDY Awards
David J. St. Aubin Award for Excellence
Presented by: NOAA's National Marine Fisheries Service
Maryland Green Registry Leadership Award
Presented by: Maryland State Department of the Environment
Margaret Jones Research Award
Presented by: Maryland Environmental Trust/DNR
Maryland Green Registry Leadership Award
Presented by: Maryland Department of the Environment
Presented by: National Grants Management Association
Telly Award (Bronze)
Presented by: 31st Annual Telly Awards
Coastal America Special Recognition Award
Presented by: Coastal America
DAN Coin of Recognition
Presented by: Divers Alert Network