A touch tank that houses sea creatures for education purposes is now open, free of charge, at Penobscot East Resource Center on Atlantic Avenue in Stonington.
Penobscot East purchased the touch tank from the Marine Environmental Research Institute in Blue Hill, according to Penobscot East community liaison Holly Eaton.
“They are transitioning their focus to marine toxics and environmental issues,” said Eaton. “They asked us if we were interested, and we jumped on it. MERI wanted to find a home in the area for the tank; they wanted to see it stay local.”
The tank has been set up since late June, and features marine life found in Penobscot Bay. Currently, the tank houses a legal lobster—a blue lobster, no less—an undersized lobster, a sand crab, a hermit crab, urchins and a sea cucumber. The tank usually also has a sea star (starfish).
Currently, the sea cucumber is a bit of a rock star of the tank. “If sea cucumbers can have a personality, than this one has a good one,” said Eaton.
There are also periwinkles and mussels in the tank. The tank is permitted by the state to hold most anything that can come up in a trap. Eaton said at some point they hope to be able to have some groundfish in the tank as well.
“It’s only a 100-gallon touch tank, though, so we have to be careful how much we put in it,” she said. She and the interns who help monitor the tank and offer information about its contents take special care not to stress the animals too much. The animals in the tank are rotated out every few weeks, and released into the ocean.
A lobster trap built by Kevin Clough is also on display, so that curious kids can find out how a lobster is trapped, and how it is determined if the lobster is legal to keep.
The tank is open to the public from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Monday through Friday. The tank will also be open on Saturday, July 20, during the Penobscot East 10th anniversary open house from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.