Mississippi Aquarium welcomes its first residents ahead of Aug. 29 grand opening

On Sunday, the Mississippi Aquarium in Gulfport welcomed its first residents.

Eight years in the making, the aquarium now officially houses cownose rays, sheepshead fish, goliath grouper, and horseshoe crabs.

Moving the aquatic life into their new home is no simple task.

First, marine life is transported to Gulfport from zoos and aquariums from all across the country. Then, they are quarantined to ensure all the aquatic animals are healthy.

Next, the sea life is moved into water the same temperature as the exhibit’s water in order for them to acclimate. Then, they’re finally released into their new environment.

Kurt Allen, Mississippi Aquarium President and CEO, says, “They’re all doing what they’re supposed to do and it looks exactly like we want it to look like. The fish look great. The rays swimming by look great.”

After the COVID-19 shutdown delayed its original grand-opening date, the Mississippi Aquarium announced visitors will finally be able to see these fish and plenty of other aquatic animals starting August 29th, a date with lots of significance for those on the Coast.

“Everybody knows what we went through during and after Katrina. And it’s amazing all the different communities along the coast how they’ve rebounded and all the excitement that’s going on right now,” Allen says.

August marks the 15-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, which transformed the Mississippi coastline, both naturally and economically.

Ric Urban, Mississippi Aquarium’s Vice President of Animal care and Conservation tells WXXV, “We’ve been waiting quite a long time. I’ve been down here nearly two-and-a-half years and it is just — this just feels so right now. It’s a very exciting time and, you know, you almost have goosebumps of what’s going on.”

“We want to make this a celebration. There’s a celebration of re-birth. There’s a celebration of the economic development. We’re coming back.”

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