Founded in 1996, Sea Center Texas is an aquarium and fish hatchery in Lake Jackson – about an hour’s drive from downtown Houston. Julie Hagen, a spokeswoman for the Coastal Fisheries Division at Texas Parks and Wildlife, says admission is free and visitors can explore an underwater microcosm through the center’s exhibits.
“It has an aquarium with multiple different types of ecosystem tanks, so you can see different types of fish and different places they can live. It also happens to be the world’s largest red drum fish hatchery,” Hagen says.
The Sea Center’s fish hatchery raises primarily red drum, but also spotted seatrout and flounder. Every year, the center releases into the ocean around 25 million juvenile fish, known as fingerlings, in an effort to boost wild populations. Visitors can tour the fish hatchery to learn more.
Hagen says tours of the aquarium and hatcheries are volunteer-led. Indeed, the entire Sea Center is mostly run by volunteers.
For kids who may want a more hands-on way to learn about aquatic wildlife, Hagen says the Sea Center has touch tanks.
“[They] have the opportunity to touch crabs and invertebrates and little fish,” Hagen says.
Most of all, she says the center helps visitors of all ages better understand the value of creatures living in the ocean, and how their habitats are interconnected.
“Coral reefs, artificial reefs, jetties – further out into the Gulf and open water: these are all different habitats and different ecosystems, and Sea Center really helps drive why they’re all interconnected and why they’re important for our oceans,” Hagen says.
For volunteer opportunities, visit the Sea Center website.
Written by Brooke Reaves.