The largest aquarium in the western hemisphere is located in Atlanta, Georgia, and is known as the Georgia Aquarium. The facility opened to the public on November 23, 2005 and houses more than 100,000 animals representing over 500 species. The aquarium's mission is to be a leading ocean conservation organization committed to inspiring action on behalf of aquatic life through education, research, and rescue.
The Georgia Aquarium spans more than 550,000 square feet (51,000 m2) and features eight million gallons (30 million liters) of marine and fresh water habitats. It houses whale sharksâ€”the largest fish in captivityâ€”as well as beluga whales, bottlenose dolphins, California sea lions , penguins , otters , Arapaima , stingrays , piranhas , jellyfish , barracuda , eels , alligators and many more. The facility also has an extensive educational program with classes for both children and adults available both on-site and online.
In addition to being the largest aquarium in the western hemisphere, the Georgia Aquarium is also one of only two facilities in North America (the other being SeaWorld San Diego ) that house whale sharks . As such, it plays an important role in research and conservation efforts for these endangered animals. In 2016 alone, the aquarium's animal care team rescued or assisted 16 sea turtles that were either injured or ill; released 11 rehabilitated loggerhead sea turtles back into the wild; conducted necropsies on 18 stranded dolphins; provided medical treatment to 38 sick or injured animals;and much more.