National Marine Aquarium reveals behind-the-scenes secrets for new BBC series

Tuesday: Secrets of the Aquarium (BBC Two, 8pm)
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If you’ve ever wondered how a shark is moved from one tank to another, or how many rays is too many for one aquarium, then a trip to the National Marine Aquarium (NMA) in Britain’s Ocean City, Plymouth, may be in order.

Originally housed at the Marine Biology Association on Plymouth Hoe during the late 19th century, it was relocated to a much larger state-of-the-art building in the city’s Barbican district in 1998.

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Since then, tens of thousands of animals have made the Aquarium their home, while the NMA has welcomed over seven million (human) visitors.

Xav, Marcus and Safa reveal secrets of the aquariumXav, Marcus and Safa reveal secrets of the aquarium
Xav, Marcus and Safa reveal secrets of the aquarium

Over the past quarter of a century, the National Marine Aquarium has become a key pillar of the local community in Plymouth, and locals will often recount tales of coming to the aquarium for a school trip, sleepover, a visit with grandparents, or even a first date.

However, its greatest impact has been on conservation, and it has long been at the forefront of the battle for a healthy and thriving oceans.

This year, the NMA is celebrating its 25th anniversary by taking television viewers behind the scenes of its world-class exhibits, showing us how the 100 vets, trainers and keepers keep over 4,000 spectacular creatures happy and healthy.

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Six-part documentary series Secrets of the Aquarium follows the intrepid team through an exciting year of renovation, overhaul and innovation.

Olly Reed, Head of Marketing and Communications at the Ocean Conservation Trust and the National Marine Aquarium, says: “We are thrilled to showcase the work of our charity and Aquarium to BBC viewers.

“Our charity is dedicated to connecting people to the Ocean, and so we are delighted to bring that connection into people’s homes across the UK!”

Clare Mottershead, BBC Commissioning Editor, adds: “We’re looking forward to bringing the wonders of this underwater world to our audiences and sharing the surprising stories of the creatures who inhabit it and the committed team who look after them.”

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When we first join the staff, it’s a time of change – new tanks are being installed and new animals are arriving.

But that’s not all. The teams at the aquarium are committed to connecting people to the ocean and are helping to establish Plymouth Sound as Britain’s first ever National Marine Park.

Over the next few weeks we will get acquainted with the friendly staff as they feed the star fish, swim with sharks, weigh the sting rays, catch a venomous lion fish, visit the fish nursery, prepare for the arrival of the baby clown fish, give pioneering contraceptive implants to stingrays, receive a new octopus, build a habitat for seahorses and fly to the Maldives to rescue an injured turtle.

In tonight’s first edition, Marcus, the NMA’s new curator, attempts a high-risk move for a problem shark to the top of the aquarium.

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Meanwhile, Andrew builds a cave for a reclusive lobster and star attraction, Friday the turtle, suffers a nasty bite from a mystery tank mate.

As well as watching the team hard at work in the Aquarium itself, the six-part series will also venture into the wild following the team’s role in a vital new seagrass protection project – the landmark ‘Blue Meadows’, which will deliver a holistic approach to seagrass protection, regeneration and restoration.

Prepare to fall in love with not only the quirky underwater creatures at NMA, but also some of the big characters that work in this dramatic and unpredictable setting when everyday presents a new challenge.