BALTIMORE (WJZ) — The National Aquarium on Tuesday celebrated its 40th year as a landmark and point of pride for Baltimore and Maryland.

The aquarium has brought millions to the Inner Harbor since it opened on Aug. 8, 1981. Its opening gave Baltimore the iconic image of then-Mayor William Donald Schaefer taking a dip in the seal pool, inflatable Donald Duck toy in hand.

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“The National Aquarium has been a model for aquariums throughout the world now and really is the one that started this amazing kind of age of aquariums,” said John Racanelli, the aquarium’s CEO.

The aquarium was a centerpiece of Schaefer’s plans to redevelop the Inner Harbor.

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“The National Aquarium has been not only an amazing tourist destination and educational resource but also a major economic anchor for Baltimore City, creating $455 million in economic activity each year and supporting 4,500 jobs,” Gov. Larry Hogan said. “It’s grown to be one of the best aquariums in the country and is now a can’t-miss tourist attraction that people from all over come to see.”

It now has 20,000 fish, birds, amphibians and other marine animals that people can’t stop coming to see.

“It’s very kid friendly, the staff is lively,” said Amy Allen, visiting from Virginia. “We always find something new.”

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Aquarium officials said ticket sales have rebounded to pre-pandemic levels.

Stetson Miller