Hap Fatzinger selected to lead N.C. Aquariums Division

Published 12:15 pm Monday, January 15, 2024

The North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources (DNCR) has announced that Hap Fatzinger has been chosen as director for the North Carolina Aquariums Division. Fatzinger will take over the role January 15, and follows the departure of Maylon White of Southern Shores, who retired in June after leading the division since 2019.

“Hap Fatzinger brings a wealth of experience, creativity, and strong leadership skills to his new role,” said DNCR Secretary Reid Wilson. “His energy and commitment to conservation and sustainability, education, and animal care make him the ideal choice to lead our North Carolina Aquariums to even greater successes in these areas.”

Fatzinger brings more than 25 years of experience in North Carolina Aquariums to the position, including having served as director of the Fort Fisher Aquarium for the last five years. Fatzinger built his career at the aquarium, starting as a volunteer and moving up the ranks during his initial 18-year tenure at the Kure Beach destination. The last 13 of those years he oversaw the care of thousands of animals as the aquarium curator. In 2015, Fatzinger left Fort Fisher to become the director of the N.C. Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores, and successfully led that team for nearly four years before returning to Fort Fisher as its director in 2019. During his tenure at Fort Fisher, he has helped grow the organization from a small, local attraction to a nationally recognized aquarium.

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He holds a bachelor’s degree in marine biology from the University of the Virgin Islands.

In addition to his role at the aquarium, Fatzinger serves on several committees of the international Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) including program leader for Saving Animals From Extinction (SAFE), Sharks and Rays; chair of the Aquatic Sustainability Committee; and member of the Advisory Committee for Aquarium Affairs.

“I’m honored to serve as director of the North Carolina Aquariums, a division recognized as leaders in conservation,” Fatzinger said. “I’m grateful to be in good company among the state’s greatest treasures and look forward to supporting a passionate team, the foundation of our success, which welcomes more than 1.4 million guests to our sites every year.”

As director, Fatzinger will oversee the entire North Carolina Aquariums Division made up of aquariums in Fort Fisher, Pine Knoll Shores and Roanoke Island, as well as Jennette’s Pier in Nags Head. He will also work closely with the board and staff of the North Carolina Aquarium Society, the nonprofit organization that manages fundraising and development for all four facilities and their conservation initiatives.

Visitor services coordinator Joanna Zazzali will serve as acting director of the Fort Fisher Aquarium until a new director is chosen.

Former director White volunteers as a firefighter in Southern Shores.