BALTIMORE–Carving pumpkins is a Halloween pastime for many families across the U.S. On Friday, a family of blacktip reef sharks joined in on the festivities.
Underwater pumpkin carving is just one of the events hosted at the National Aquarium in Baltimore as part of its annual “Hallowmarine” celebration. The two-day celebration, which began Friday, includes a parade and educational opportunities for children, and encourages guests to wear their Halloween costumes to the aquarium.
Josh Foronda, an assistant dive safety officer and aquarist at the aquarium, carved the pumpkin in the Blacktip Reef exhibit. The design was a jack-o-lantern wearing a scuba mask, and it entertained the reef’s animals as well as aquarium guests.
The animals “usually come over and explore,” said Foronda, who has carved pumpkins underwater at the aquarium for the past three years.
Throughout the carving, fish and sharks came by Foronda to inspect the pumpkin. Calpyso, a three-legged green sea turtle, took particular interest in the activity.
The pumpkin also serves as food for some of the exhibit’s vegetarian occupants, and as “additional habitat for some of the smaller animals,” Foronda added.
The pumpkin, which aquarium staff weight to the bottom of the reef, also serves as enrichment for the animals—something for them to play with and nudge—according to Colline Emmanuelle, a visitor programs interpretive specialist at the aquarium.
While fun, Hallowmarine festivities also strive to teach children and families about the roll “scary” animals like sharks play in marine ecosystems, Emmanuelle said.
“There’s actually a lot of animals that people often perceive as spooky or scary that are actually really important to the environment,” she said.