Established in 1904 and placed under the direction of the University of Hawaii-Manoa in 1919, the Waikiki Aquarium is the third oldest public aquarium in the Unites States. Its mission is "to inspire and promote understanding, appreciation and conservation of Pacific marine life.'' This is accomplished through exhibits, programs, and research focused on Hawaii's aquatic life and that of the tropical Pacific.
Each year, some 320,000 people visit the Aquarium, which is located right next to the living reef of Waikiki. More than 3,000 marine organisms are displayed here, representing over 500 species of aquatic plants and animals.
The exhibits include an interactive showcase of coral, the SeaVision Theatre with videos about shoreline conservation, sections dedicated to fisheries and aquaculture, Hawaiian ocean habitats and South Pacific marine communities. Clams, groupers, snappers, sea anemones, and long-nose butterfly fish are just a few of living sea entities to be seen here.
One popular exhibit is the 1,000-gallon "moon jelly tank'' found in the Ocean Drifters Gallery. Its "jelly wall'' changes seasonally and may include white-spotted jellies, blue blubbers, sea nettles, box jellies or ctenophores.
By far the main attraction here is the "Hunters on the Reef'' exhibit. Its 35,000-gallon tank has become the home of Hawaiian sharks and jacks, surrounded by educational panels that introduce shark research, biology, conservation and safety. Recently introduced was a "spyball camera'' that allows close-up viewing of the sharks on a television screen.
Other exhibits are provided for supervised observation and hands-on interaction with selected marine life, a coral farm, a display centering on giant clams, and a habitat created for Hawaii's endangered Monk seals. Among other unique species displayed at the Waikiki Aquarium are Hawaiian stream gobies, rare deep-reef butterfly fish, bearded armorheads and masked angelfish. Coastal Gardens, featuring native Hawaiian plants that have adapted to life near the sea, are also maintained on the premises.
Ongoing research into conservation, nutrition and behavior of marine life is conducted at this site. Students of the University and researchers from around the world come here to study spawning behavior, larval rearing, propagation of reef fishes, identification and treatment of diseases, and coral husbandry, to name but a few of the many disciplines supported by the Aquarium.
Among the many awards won by the Waikiki Aquarium for its research and conservation efforts are the 2008 Keep It Hawaii Award, the 2003 Munson Aquatic Conservation Exhibit Award, and the 2003 Edward H. Bean Award for Long-Term Tropical Pacific Coral Propagation.
Self-guided tours are most common, although interpretive group tours can be arranged upon request. Staff members are always on hand to answer questions, and information is also disseminated through the FOWA (Friends of the Waikiki Aquarium).
Located on Kalakaua Avenue across from Queen Kapiolani Park, the Aquarium is open from 9am to 4:30pm daily, with the exception of Honolulu Marathon Sunday and Christmas Day. General admission is $9 for visitors, $6 for local residents, seniors and military personnel, $4 for teenagers (13~17) and persons with disabilities, and $2 for children (5~12). Those under age four are admitted free.
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