"For one thing we can stand in front of people and talk," he said. To bring the original building into line with that approach, there are at least two plans being considered. One is to put in a countdown clock just outside the Rain Forest section to inform visitors of the rapid rate at which rain forests are disappearing. The other is to completely rebuild the coral reef to simulate an actual coral reef off the Florida coast that is now in danger of extinction.
At the same time, said Mr. Pittenger, the aquarium is experimenting with having divers, who are often seen in the shark tank feeding fish, talk to visitors by means of special communications equipment.
"Conservation has to be part of the design," he said. "It's time to be a little less subtle, to give people a feeling that there's something they can do."
IN RECENT YEARS A LOT OF CITIES across the country have looked to Baltimore and decided they knew what they wanted to do: build an aquarium of their own.
"Almost every city that is in economic trouble wants to pattern their inner-city revival after Baltimore and anchor their renaissance to an aquarium," said Mr. White. "We are fighting aquariums in 50 different cities."
It's easy to see why an aquarium seems so attractive. According to a March 1990 report by the Maryland Department of Economic and Employment Development, $128.3 million in business revenue and more than $5 million in city and state taxes are traceable each year to the 13 million visitors who patronize the aquarium.
"That ain't too shabby," said Mr. Brown. Other than money, he attributes the recent boom in aquarium building around the country "without question to the hunger on the part of the general public to know about their environment more fully and to know the wild."
But in reply, Kyle Owens of the Animal Fund has some thoughts of his own on behavior modification.
"As a species we have to learn to leave things alone," he said. "We have to control our curiosity, to allow these animals to live in the ocean. We do enough damage to them with pollution and killing them in tuna nets. Why not educate people about these abuses and let them see dolphins on a theater screen instead of in a fish tank?"