Crowd watches as BIMI’s finny friends return home

Fri, 10/09/2020 - 4:00pm

The following was submitted by John Lehman of the Block Island Maritime Institute:

A crowd of approximately 75 onlookers, masked and socially distanced, watched as Valerie Preler, the Block Island Maritime Institute’s Program Director, assisted by several young helpers, fed a noonday meal of squid and grass shrimp to the fish that have been aquarium-bound for the summer.

When asked why she was feeding the fish before they were to be let go, Preler explained that the fish needed the food to nourish them to head back into the Great Salt Pond and beyond.

After the feeding, Preler and Bayley McKeon, BIMI’s Aquarist, spent the following hour netting the tanks’ 16 guests. They were assisted by BIMI Board of Directors members Dan McLaughlin and George Davis, and expert diver Chris Blansfield.

The netted fish were released into the water under the watchful eye of many of the younger onlookers who were excited to see them swim away. Among the released specimens were striped bass, bluefish, black sea bass, scup, oyster toad fish, and sea robins. They included other aquarium visitors like crabs, lobster, oysters and snails. Everyone enjoyed the ice cream that was donated to BIMI’s 2020 Aquarium Project, courtesy of BIMI and Smitty’s Ice Cream.

Since this was the last weekend for BIMI operations, guests were reminded to make certain they returned in the spring of 2021 to see the new placement of the five aquarium tanks and BIMI’s new headquarters which will be undergoing the final touches throughout the winter.

“We really missed being able to be with our young and old friends this summer because of the pandemic,” said Preler, “and we look forward to bigger and better opportunities to ‘learn to love Block Island’ next year.”

BIMI is a not-for-profit 501 (C) 3 corporation whose mission is to provide and foster educational programs and maritime activities including marine science and maritime heritage for residents and visitors on Block Island. Donations can be made online at