Aialik: Big Brother to Oregon Coast Aquarium sea otters dies

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Mar 062013

Aialik as a baby sea otter, 14 years ago rescued off an Alaskan Glacier

Aialik as a baby sea otter, 14 years ago rescued off an Alaskan Glacier

Beloved Aialik Sea Otter at OCA dies after illness

Beloved Aialik Sea Otter
at OCA dies after illness

Aialik Feeding.fix
Ken Lytwyn, Curator of Marine Mammals with Aialik

Ken Lytwyn, Curator of Marine Mammals with Aialik

Click on photos to enlarge

Sad news from Oregon Coast Aquarium

The staff of the Oregon Coast Aquarium sadly announce the death of Aialik, a northern sea otter who was “big brother” to the Aquarium’s sea otter family.

Aialik was humanely euthanized Wednesday morning, March 6, at the Aquarium’s veterinary care center because of a failing urinary tract that affected him for much of his 14 year life. In fact, Aialik was the subject of a pioneering surgery to treat the issue. This was the first time anyone had attempted a bladder marsupialization in a marine mammal, in which an artificial opening allowed the bladder to function and drain. This successfully extended Aialik’s life for several years.

Jim Burke, Director of Animal Husbandry for the Aquarium, explained, “The Aquarium’s founding veterinarian, the late Dr. Steven Brown, had performed this surgery before on livestock. He spent over a year consulting with sea otter experts across the globe to determine if this treatment would help Aialik before performing the surgery in collaboration with Oregon State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine.”

In early summer 1998, a fisherman noticed a sea otter pup floating alone near the Aialik Glacier in Alaska. After several hours of observation, and no sign of the pup’s mother, he brought the pup on board and handed him over to the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service. Suffering from dehydration, the pup was transferred to the Alaska Sea Life Center in Seward, Alaska for emergency care. When his health recovered one week later, Aialik [named for the glacier near where he was found] boarded a plane bound for his new home at the Oregon Coast Aquarium.

Aquarium staff worked around the clock to bottle-feed and groom four pound Aialik. He was the first otter the Aquarium staff raised from nursing age. As he grew, handlers taught him how to eat solid food, groom himself and eventually swim. Several of those original handlers were by his side Wednesday morning.


“He loved to drag artificial kelp out of the pool and roll up in it like a burrito,” said Ken Lytwyn, Curator of Marine Mammals for the Aquarium. “He would sit there and slowly rub the strips on his face until he fell asleep. He left such a big impression on everybody who worked with him.”

Throughout the years as young sea otters were introduced to the Aquarium, they immediately gravitated toward Aialik. “He was like their big cuddly uncle,” Lytwyn said. “Aialik would let them crawl all over him. They would take naps in one big dog pile.”

Aialik earned notoriety for being the first ever sea otter subject in an olfactory, or sense of smell, study. His ability to detect just a hint of scent surprised some researchers, who thought that marine mammals did not have highly developed senses of smell since they hunt under water.


“We were fortunate we were able to treat him with the best possible animal care available. Aialik was a beloved member of our Aquarium family and he will be deeply missed,” said the Oregon Coast Aquarium’s CEO, Carrie Lewis.

The Oregon Coast Aquarium accepts donations to the Animal Care Fund to help treat Aquarium animals with special needs like Aialik. Burke said, “We do go to extreme measures to improve quality of life and give the best possible care.” The Animal Care Fund continues those efforts to provide care to both Aquarium animals and wildlife rehabilitation. Information regarding donations to this fund is available by contacting the Aquarium at 541-867-3474 or


Want to volunteer at the Oregon Coast Aquarium? Here’s your chance!

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Feb 152013

Oregon Coast Aquarium photo

The Oregon Coast Aquarium volunteer spring training session begins on April 6th. In order to apply, applicants must submit an official application which is available at the admissions area of the Aquarium or on line by clicking here. After receiving a completed application, the Aquarium will then contact the applicant prior to training to conduct an interview.

The Oregon Coast Aquarium volunteer program is in its 20th year and is proud to have the amazing service of nearly 450 volunteers. Since its conception, the program has provided an opportunity to learn about the fascinating marine life that we have in the Pacific Northwest and to share that knowledge with visitors. Volunteer opportunities at the Aquarium exist in the areas of diving, interpreting, greeting, grounds, community outreach and special events.


During the six week interpretive training course, volunteers gain in depth knowledge about the biology of the animals in our collection. They also have the opportunity to meet our husbandry staff and learn about how they care for our animals. Volunteering at the Aquarium requires no special education or background, just a willingness to learn and commit to 100 hours per year.

“The Oregon Coast Aquarium makes a significant commitment to its volunteers by offering a first-class training program; a supportive staff in both the education and animal husbandry departments, and a highly rated facility,” said Julie Shafer, Interpretive Shift Captain. “This commitment makes it a joy to volunteer and to share my experiences with our valued visitors.”


Volunteers receive numerous benefits including a membership to the Aquarium, discounts in both the café and gift shops and many others. To participate as a volunteer you must at least 14 years old, possess an interest in marine science, enjoy meeting new people, and have the ability to attend all necessary training.

The Oregon Coast Aquarium is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization located in Newport on the beautiful Oregon Coast. Our mission is to inspire the public to better understand, cherish and conserve marine and coastal ecosystems. The Aquarium is a member of the Association of Zoos & Aquariums. It has been named one of the top 10 aquariums in the U.S. Visit us at 2820 S.E. Ferry Slip Rd., Newport, OR., 541-867-3474. Follow us on for the latest updates.


Sea Lions: About to become more up front and personal for visitors to Oregon Coast Aquarium

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Jan 262013

Newport, Oregon— The Oregon Coast Aquarium is set to begin a much anticipated renovation that will overhaul the Pinniped (Seal and Sea Lion) exhibit. The goal of the project is to increase the educational and overall guest experience while viewing the exhibit.

“The Pinniped Exhibit remodel is an exciting step in the implementation of the Aquarium’s strategic plan. We are committed to providing amazing and educational interactive experiences to our visitors’,” explained Carrie Lewis, CEO at the Oregon Coast Aquarium.

The major changes to the exhibit will be a 420% increase in the viewing area available to visitors and improvements to the animal husbandry infrastructure. Furthermore, the new exhibit will allow the potential of adding additional feeding times and showcasing animal training sessions.

The current Pinniped Exhibit layout has been in place since the opening of the Aquarium in 1992. The exhibit was originally designed to be as natural looking as possible. There were also no public feedings at that time. “As the number of visitors has increased over time it became apparent a larger viewing area was needed,” added Lewis. The new design will retain the current natural habitat look, while providing better viewing as well as covered seating.

Contractors will begin construction on the exhibit Monday, January 28th. The project is expected to take five to six weeks and is set to open prior to Spring Break. Video updates will be done weekly and available on both as well as the Oregon Coast Aquarium’s Facebook page.

Funding to make the project possible stemmed in large part from a $250,000 Tourism Facilities grant from the City of Newport. The remaining budget was raised through private donations.

The Oregon Coast Aquarium is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization located in Newport on the beautiful Oregon Coast. Our mission is to inspire the public to better understand, cherish and conserve marine and coastal ecosystems. The Aquarium is a member of the Association of Zoos & Aquariums. It has been named one of the top 10 aquariums in the U.S. Visit us at 2820 S.E. Ferry Slip Rd., Newport, OR., 541-867-3474. Follow us on for the latest updates.

Oregon Coast Aquarium trying to nurse two stranded sea turtles back to health

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Dec 182012

Rescued turtles at OCA
OCA photos
Click photos to enlarge

Two warm-water sea turtles that washed ashore on the Oregon coast Monday December 17th have arrived for care at the Oregon Coast Aquarium. The first was found in Seaside and the second washed ashore in Gearhart.

These southern water turtles, both females, likely rode inside a finger of their native warmer waters northward, driven by strong southerly winds. As their pocket of semi-tropical waters mixed with the colder waters off Oregon, their core temperatures dropped and their bodily functions all but shut down to conserve energy. Fortunately both were beached in populated areas and were quickly spotted by beach visitors. Both turtles were transported Monday evening to the Oregon Coast Aquarium, which is designated by U.S. Fish & Wildlife (USFWS) to rehabilitate and transport sea turtles, with the goal of releasing them back into their natural habitat.

One is a Green Sea Turtle and the other is an Olive Ridley Sea Turtle. Both species are on the endangered list and protected under the Endangered Species Act.

“Both turtles are in critical condition,” said Jim Burke, Director of Animal Husbandry at OCA. “The Green Sea turtle has been responsive while the Olive Ridley has remained unresponsive. We are warming the air around their bodies to raise their core temperatures and administering fluids.” Burke added that the process will take several days since they can only be warmed up five degrees a day. Currently both animals have body temperatures in the low 50’s compared to their nomal 70’s.”

The Oregon Coast Aquarium is the only certified rehabilitation facility on the Oregon coast. “It is our goal to assist these animals in their rehabilitation process and to ensure we provide the best chance to release them back into the wild,” said Carrie Lewis, CEO at the Oregon Coast Aquarium.

USFWS Coastal Oregon Field Office urges anyone who finds a sea turtle on the beach to contact the Oregon State Police Wildlife Hotline at 1-800-452-7888 to ensure appropriate transport and care of the animal.

A sea turtle that washed ashore on Moolack Beach north of Newport last August was nursed back to health at the Oregon Coast Aquarium. It was eventually flown in a military transport plane from Newport to San Diego where its rehabilitation continued with eventual release back into the sea in much warmer waters.

Oregon Coast Aquarium’s “Sea of Lights” event coming up next weekend

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Nov 252012

OCA Christmas Lights

Bask In The Sea of Lights at Oregon Coast Aquarium

Wander the grounds of the Oregon Coast Aquarium next weekend as you’ve never seen them before – decked out with holiday decorations and tens of thousands of colorful twinkling lights and lighted displays. Our guests can also visit with Santa in his workshop or enjoy our enormous and beautifully lit Christmas tree and live holiday music.

Dates: Friday, November 30 and Saturday, December 1 from 6:30 to 9:00 p.m. each date.

December 21, 2012: Holiday Family Combo Sleepover

At the height of the holidays, gather your loved ones around you and have the Aquarium all to yourselves! Travel through our exhibits on a scavenger hunt, participate in hands-on activities, and experience early morning behind-the-scenes at the Aquarium! After a fun-filled evening exploring life under the ocean, be lulled to sleep by the soothing sights of our Passages of the Deep tunnels. This event starts on December 21 at 6:30 p.m. and concludes the following morning.

December 28, 2012: Fisheries Day – Dungeness Crab

Visitors will be able to see fishing gear and talk to fisherman about the local fishing industry. There will be opportunities to try on a survival suit and taste samples of fresh Dungeness crab. Information tables, hands on activities for children and information about sea safety will be included in the day’s activities. Free with the price of admission.

It’s all out there…in Living Color!

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Oct 092012

Click on poster to enlarge

From Oregon Coast Aquarium, Newport

Oregon Coast Aquarium Kicks Off The “Oceanscape Network”
With A Free Poster Giveaway For Oregon Teachers

The Oregon Coast Aquarium is offering a free full-color poster to teachers all over the state as an advanced promotional item for the Oceanscape Network, the Aquarium’s new website project designed to connect young people to the coast, the oceans and the outdoors.

From the snowy summit of the coastal mountains to the muddy ocean floor, the poster depicts the major ecosystems of the coast, labeled with keystone animal and plant species. The poster is designed to supplement classroom lessons on the coast and oceans and is appropriate for all grade levels. The vibrant artwork was produced by Newport artist, Ron Houchens. The poster is free upon request, although shipping costs will apply for teachers outside of the Newport area. The poster will also be distributed by Aquarium educators as they provide outreach to schools around the state.

The Oceanscape Network is a comprehensive web-based resource which will offer students and teachers new ways to explore and interact with the Oregon Coast. Educators will have the ability to create online student communities which will guide young people through the inquiry-based science projects needed to graduate. Young people who wish to explore outside of school will have access to hundreds of online features, including videos, interactive maps, photographs and the personal stories of how Oregon youth are learning about and experiencing coastal ecosystems.

Funded by grants and contributions from the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust, Pacific Power Foundation, Swindells Charitable Trust, Collins Foundation and many others, the Network will be free to anyone who wishes to use it. It is scheduled to launch in Summer 2013.

Additional information on the Network or how to order the posters can be found at An Oceanscape preview site is also online at

Oregon Coast Aquarium: Taking the oceans on the road…

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Sep 272012

OCA photo

The Aquarium Brings the Shore to Your Door

Look for the Aquarium education van in a school near you, as a new season of outreach gets underway!
From Oregon Coast Aquarium

Newport, Oregon— A new season of outreach is underway as Oregon Coast Aquarium educators take to the road in their colorful education van, bringing marine science to grade schools throughout the region. The van is painted with a mural of marine life found at the Oregon Coast Aquarium. Upcoming outreach destinations include twenty weeks in counties throughout Oregon and Southwest Washington.

Using a multimedia production, costumes, bones, pelts, skulls, and life-sized inflatable sea animals, students will discover how marine animals have adapted to life in the Pacific Northwest ocean environment. This year the Marine Mammals program will be debuting brand new seal and sea lion costumes.

Because there are many places where students aren’t in close proximity to the ocean to be able to experience the Aquarium, the outreach program “takes the shore to their door.” The Aquarium Education Department is making an effort to reach more students than ever before. “Our goal is to increase awareness and conservation of the ocean’s resources. Last year we visited over 20,000 students in three states!” said Jenni Remillard, Outreach Coordinator. “We have been expanding to new areas, visiting our first ever California school last year. It is a lot harder for schools on the east side of the state to get to the coast, so I feel this program is a valuable way to get kids excited about the ocean.”

The assemblies are age-appropriate with “Flippers, Fur and Fun,” “Shark Shenanigans,” “Tales of Whales” and “No Bones About ‘Em” for kindergarten through second grade and “Dressed for Success,” “Sense-ational Sharks,” “What About Whales?” and “From Tubefeet to Tentacles” for third through fifth grade students. The programs rotate by year, so the students never see the same program. All outreach programs are aligned to meet the Oregon Department of Education standards in science.

This outreach effort enables the Aquarium to extend its educational services to schoolchildren in rural and other underserved communities annually who might not otherwise be able to travel to the coast to visit the Aquarium. In addition to being used for outreach to schools and for offsite teacher workshops, the van is also employed to transport youth volunteers on field excursions and service projects and the transport of rehab animals.

The Aquarium Outreach Team will be visiting schools in the following counties. For schedule information about schools near you, please call 541-867-3474 ext. 5301.

Oct 23 – 25, 2012

Oct 30 – Nov 1, 2012

Linn and Benton
Nov 13 – 15, 2012

Vancouver WA
Dec 4 – 6, 2012

Dec 10 – 14, 2012

Tillamook and Clatsop
Jan 8 – 10, 2013

Jan 22 – 24, 2013

Coos and Curry
Feb 5 – 7, 2013

Columbia and Washington
Feb 12 – 14, 2013

Multnomah and Clackamas
Feb 26 – 28, 2013

Mar 12 – 14, 2013

Columbia Gorge area (OR and WA)
Mar 19 – 21, 2013

Umatilla/Union/Morrow/Walla Walla WA
April 9 – 11, 2013

April 23 – 25, 2013

May 7 – 9, 2013

Jackson/Josephine/Klamath extra week
May 21 – 23, 2013

The Oregon Coast Aquarium to host Jellyfish Jubilee September 22

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Sep 072012

The fifth annual Aquarium fundraiser will celebrate the bounty of the Pacific Northwest

The Oregon Coast Aquarium’s fifth annual Jellyfish Jubilee; A Celebration of Food and Wine, will be held September 22, 2012, from 6 to 9 pm and will benefit the Aquarium’s animal care, exhibits and education programs.

At this all inclusive event, guests will enjoy a champagne reception followed by delectable food, exquisite wine and opportunities to experience Behind the Scene Tours, Octopus Encounters, and a live Vulture Presentation. There will also be an interactive program by Fish Trax with cooking demonstration, entertainment by the musical group Past Forward, solo artist Mark Mugnai and the first “Crème de la Crème” chef competition.

Participating restaurants and wineries: Bay 839, Chinook Winds Casino & Resort, Cottonwood Winery of Oregon, Domaine Ste. Michelle Winery, Fins Coffee, Georgie’s Beachside Grill, La Maison Café & Bakery, Local Ocean Seafoods Monk’s Gate Vineyard, Oak Knoll Winery, Ocean bleu at Gino’s, Red Hawk Winery & Vineyard, Rogue Brewery, Savory Café, Shilo Inn Newport Suite, Sineann Winery, Stone Crest Cellars and Tyee Wine Cellars.

“We are looking forward to our fifth annual event as we celebrate the Aquarium’s 20th year,” said Carrie Lewis, Aquarium President and CEO. “It is such a lovely time of year on the coast and the Jellyfish Jubilee is an opportunity to see the Aquarium in a different setting while enjoying a summer evening with regional food and wine.”

Tickets for admission to the event are $100. Aquarium members qualify for a 10% discount. Tickets may be purchased at

West Coast Bank is the presenting sponsor of the Jellyfish Jubilee with additional support from Wildlife Trading Company of New Mexico, Marta and Ken Thrasher and Guardian Energy Technologies, Inc., and Leopold Ketel & Partners.

The Oregon Coast Aquarium is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit educational attraction dedicated to the highest quality aquatic and marine science programs for recreation and education so the public better understands, cherishes, and conserves the world’s natural marine and coastal resources. For more information, visit the Aquarium’s Web site at or call (541) 867-FISH.