The Aquarium is currently open to the public. In response to COVID-19, we’ve made some essential changes to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience for all.
National Aquarium Animal Rescue is federally permitted by the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to respond to sick and injured sea turtles and marine mammals along Maryland's 3,190 miles of coastline. We also partner with other institutions to rehabilitate animals that strand up and down the East Coast, and work with the Greater Atlantic Region Stranding Network (GARS) year-round to assist with animal rescue operations, transports, monitoring, rehabilitation, releases and more.
Since 1991, we have returned hundreds of rehabilitated animals to their natural habitats—including harbor, gray, harp and hooded seals; Kemp's ridley, green and loggerhead sea turtles; and a harbor porpoise, pygmy sperm whale and manatee.
Each summer, juvenile sea turtles including loggerheads, greens, leatherbacks and Kemp's ridleys are drawn to the warm, shallow waters of Cape Cod, Massachusetts, to forage for food.
Sea turtles are cold-blooded reptiles; if they don't migrate south before water temperatures drop in the fall, they can become lethargic or even comatose. Cold stunning is essentially hypothermia, or low body temperature, for sea turtles. It causes chronic illnesses and complications such as pneumonia, lesions and parasites. Every year, National Aquarium staff and volunteers collaborate with local and national institutions to rescue, rehabilitate and release cold-stunned sea turtles.
Every winter, seals strand along the East Coast of the United States. Seals are semi-aquatic animals, which means they come ashore regularly. Once a seal on a Maryland beach is determined to be injured or ill, National Aquarium Animal Rescue works with the Maryland Coastal Bays Program and the Maryland Department of Natural Resources to respond. We provide care to seals rescued in other states as well.
To be released back into the ocean, rehabbed seals must demonstrate they're ready by engaging in enrichment activities, passing medical and behavioral evaluations and weighing at least 50 pounds. All National Aquarium stranding response and seal rehabilitation activities are conducted under NOAA permit 18786-04.
Animal Care and Rescue Center
The Animal Care and Rescue Center, opened in 2018, provides a headquarters for National Aquarium Animal Rescue and houses innovative rehabilitation suites for rescued seals.
The 56,339-square-foot building provides a permanent, world-class home for the care of the Aquarium's current and future animals. When it opened, it more than doubled the Aquarium's capacity for off-exhibit and rescued animals. Viewing windows along the ACRC's primary hallways allow tour guests, student groups and other visitors to view animal care and welfare work previously unseen by the public.