In 1990 plans for Jenkinson’s Aquarium were approved. The aquarium was designed to be a year round premiere Jersey Shore attraction that emphasized education and entertainment. Construction began in the winter of 1991 and the facility was opened to the public in June of that same year. The aquarium was originally conceived to provide the public with an interactive experience emphasizing aquatic ecosystems.
Within the first few years all of the main exhibits plumbing was updated, and new exhibits were being created.
• 1994 - A Pacific Coast Habitat exhibit to display additional species of sharks was added. The exhibit was designed to replicate a kelp forest habitat and provides the public with an opportunity to see species not found on our coastline.
• 2003 - A rainforest exhibit was created to include our four resident parrots, pygmy marmosets (acquired at the time through the PMP program), and saddleback tamarin.
• 2007 - The marine fossil area was converted to a Pine Barrens to help bring awareness to a number of threatened and species of special concern in New Jersey such as the spotted turtle, diamondback terrapin, and eastern tiger salamander.
• 2012 –The African penguin exhibit was completely overhauled. What was once 119 square foot, containing a 1,300 gallon pool, became 525 square feet with a 4,000 gallon pool which includes a state-of-the-art life support system was also installed which contains a bead filter, chiller, ozone and protein skimmer.
• 2015 - The harbor seal exhibit was renovated which involved the appearance, life support systems, and energy efficiency.
• 2016 - The filtration was upgraded in Tanks 1, 2, and 3.
• 2017 - Currently we are undertaking our most extensive renovation to date which includes updating the facade; an expansion and redesign of the lobby area; the addition of three new tanks which will include a 3,500 gallon ray touch tank; and additional office space which allows for new work stations for staff and the director.
In addition to the physical improvements to the aquarium, the last 26 years have seen many education program additions and our outreach programs continue to exceed expectations with most months being completely booked. Enrollment for our summer camps increases steadily each year.
We began participating in the African penguin SSP program in 1996 and we continue to be actively involved today. This involvement inspired us to apply for AZA accreditation which we received in March 2008.
In October of 2012 the aquarium went through its worst weather event since its opening with Hurricane Sandy. This storm completely destroyed our lowest level which serves as our quarantine area, depositing almost four feet of sand throughout. Sandy caused the power to be out for 11days and the aquarium to be closed to the public for over 3 months. Due to proper planning and a committed staff, we survived with no loss of animal or human life.
Visitor surveys consistently show that we get many return visitors and positive feedback about our exhibits and staff. Our school, visitor, and outreach programs continue to grow, bringing our message of marine conservation and education to more people.