The National Marine Aquarium (NMA) in Plymouth will be celebrating its 20th birthday this year with a programme of events to commemorate its work and inspire new audiences about our oceans and their importance for a healthy planet.
As the largest aquarium in the UK, the NMA welcomes more than 300,000 people every year. Plymouth has been home to an aquarium since 1888. Initially housed at the Marine Biological Association, a new and much larger aquarium was built at the current site in the Barbican district of the city in 1997, designated the National Marine Aquarium. Leading the way, the NMA was the first aquarium in the UK to be run as a separate charity solely dedicated to education and conservation of the marine environment.
Over the last 20 years, the NMA has been instrumental in connecting people with our oceans and promoting pro-ocean behaviour. As an education and conservation charity, the NMA's Discovery and Learning team is proud to deliver curriculum-based learning that entertains, engages and inspires an average of 30,000 students a year, connecting them with our oceans and developing a better understanding of their importance and rich biodiversity. The NMA has subsidised this by over £1m, over the last 5 years alone. Now in its 20th birthday year, the NMA has also launched a national education outreach programme with the first hubs in Cardiff and Newcastle, with a target of reaching one million school children and young families a year, within the next five years.
Its world-class husbandry team look after more than 4,000 animals, including Lemon Sharks, Grey Reef Sharks, Sting Rays and Friday the Green Turtle, to name just a few, and leads groundbreaking research and breeding projects. One highlight came in 2016 when the team welcomed two Ocellated Eagle Ray pups to the family - the first ever captive-bred pups to be born successfully in the UK, thanks to a long-standing collaboration between the team at the National Marine Aquarium and other aquaria across Europe.
The NMA's grant giving arm, National Aquarium Ltd, is also proud to have supported over 60 conservation research projects over the years, investing more than £195,000 via visitor donations.
Roger Maslin, CEO of the National Marine Aquarium, commented:
“2018 is a special year for the NMA as we celebrate 20 years of marine conservation and education. We are extremely proud of the contribution we have made to raising awareness of ocean conservation but more importantly how we can all work together to create healthier oceans for the benefit and enjoyment of all. The oceans are vitally important to the health of our planet; they spawned life around 3.8 billion years ago and have been sustaining life ever since. It is everyone’s responsibility to safeguard them for future generations.
“We have lots of public activities for visitors to help us celebrate - the launch of our new boat trips and beach cleans provide the ideal opportunity to get involved, with celebrations culminating with a series of special birthday events. The introduction of our new membership programme will also enable visitors to help support our mission to connect us with our oceans and promote pro-ocean behaviour.”
To mark its milestone year, the NMA has a bumper programme of public events planned throughout 2018. 20 beach cleans are taking place across the south west - one beach clean for every year the NMA has been open. A brand new series of boat trips are available, enabling visitors to explore the Plymouth Sound with a team of marine biologists and ocean conservationists from the NMA. The NMA's partnership with Nuffield Health has also been extended, with a series of unique wellbeing events held at the Aquarium throughout the year including Pilates, Yoga and Body Balance classes. The National Marine Aquarium's 20th birthday celebrations will continue throughout May, June and July, as listed below, with celebrations culminating on 24th July - the NMA's official birthday day.
As the NMA looks ahead to the next 20 years, it is preparing to launch a new membership programme that will enable visitors to support its ongoing conservation efforts. As a charity, the NMA relies on visitor donations to continue its important work from delivering school programmes, funding conservation projects around the globe and providing world-class animal husbandry for thousands of marine animals. The new membership programme will allow the public to support the NMA's future work, while receiving a number of benefits including pass entry, priority booking and access to special talks and events.
“We have made a good start but there is so much more we need to do to connect us with the oceans and promote pro-ocean behaviour. As a society, the next 20 years will be crucial. We have long-term initiatives in place to continue our conservation pathway, promoting those necessary pro-ocean behaviours to achieve real positive outcomes and long lasting ocean change. This will see us utilise new advances in technology to extend our reach across the UK, working with like-minded organisations to achieve greater impact. These are pivotal times for our oceans and we are committed to playing our part.”
NMA 20th birthday events:
Monday 14th May: Pilates at the Aquarium - A special Nuffield Health wellbeing event
Saturday 19th May: 20th Birthday Boat Trip - Join the NMA’s experts for a special boat trip around Plymouth Sound and learn more about the marine life which calls it home
26th May - 3rd June: 20 Years of the NMA – Over the May half term, the NMA will be looking back over the last 20 years and celebrating some of its key achievements
Friday 1st June: Big Birthday Sleeping with Sharks Sleepover – Join the team for an extra special birthday sleepover
Wednesday 30th June: Birthday Family Evening – The Aquarium will be open to the public for free to get involved with plenty of fun birthday activities
Friday 20th July: Friends of the NMA – Partners, sponsors and local businesses are invited to experience the Aquarium after dark
Tuesday 24th July: Official Birthday Day!