A few Iowans helped land some of the fish that are now making their home at a world-class aquarium in New Orleans. Employees of the “Audubon Aquarium of the Americas” had to evacuate because of Hurricane Katrina, the aquarium’s life support systems failed and 10-thousand fish died. Kevin Hansen, a technician at the state fish hatchery in Guttenberg, Iowa, says folks at the Mississippi River Museum in Dubuque told him about the plight of the New Orleans aquarium.
The Guttenberg fish hatchery operates an aquarium from May to October, and when they close down the fish are released into the Mississippi. Hansen says they decided to give their fish to the folks in New Orleans, and even went into the Mississippi River to find some of the species the aquarium was looking for. Hansen went out on some of the “back channels” on the Mississippi with a local commercial fisherman and they hauled in “quite a bit of extra fish.”
Two people from New Orleans drove up to pick up the haul. The New Orleans aquarium has a trailer with a one-thousand gallon tank equipped with its own oxygen supply and a motor that recirculates the water. Hansen says it was very cold and snowy day in early December when the folks from New Orleans — who had never seen snow before — drove into Iowa to pick up the fish.
“They made it fine,” Hansen says. “I got an e-mail from them and all the fish made it fine. They were really happy to get the fish.” Hansen says the Iowa fish will become part of the New Orleans’ aquarium’s Mississippi River exhibit. “It’s kind of nice to help out,” he says. Hansen hopes to visit the aquarium when it reopens sometime next summer.
Hansen doubts the fish miss their Iowa homes. “It sounds like it’s a state-of-the-art facility that they’re going to. It just sounds like it’s a really neat aquarium and from meeting the folks that we met, I think they’re in good hands,” Hanson says. “Hopefully, (the fish) will go on to help other people have the same appreciation for the river that we do.” Bass, bluegill, crappies, and carp were among the Iowa fish Hansen and his crew donated to the New Orleans aquarium. The Dubuque Museum and Aquarium also put fish in the tanker headed back to New Orleans — donating paddlefish, sturgeon and eels to their southern neighbors.