Monterey Bay Aquarium is cool even for scuba divers

MONTEREY BAY AQUARIUM IS COOL

“Finding Nemo” fans understand the trauma of captured tropical fish destined for aquariums. Avid scuba divers are also quite disdainful of sea life in captivity. The difference between seeing something free in its natural habitat versus caged behind glass is  immense.    The Monterey Bay Aquarium is world renown for its ocean conservation and education. Ocean conservation strikes a chord for most scuba divers. We wanted to support an organization doing this important work, however we were still skeptical  of viewing ocean wildlife through glass windows.  The Monterey Bay Aquarium deserves all the rave reviews.  What we found was, the Monterey Bay Aquarium is cool even for scuba divers!!!

A tight schedule mandated that we visit on the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend.  Of course the facility bulged  with holiday crowds.  The Monterey Bay Aquarium staff did a great job of moving people through the lines and the crowds were gracious and sharing.  Every kid of every age loved the experience.  Because The Monterey Bay Aquarium is cool!!

INSPIRATION

The mission of the nonprofit Monterey Bay Aquarium is to inspire conservation of the ocean.”

 

To inspire is a big and glorious goal. Such a goal is why the Monterey Bay Aquarium is cool. The Aquarium inspires through several programs; exhibition, education, research, and policy guidance, all directed towards Ocean conservation. The first and most  obvious is the beautiful displays and exhibits throughout the facility.

Exhibits

The Aquarium is laid out by habitats and ecosystems.
Every exhibit carefully crafted to present a pristine and accurate peak into an ecosystem.

 

 

 

 

 

 

There are fan favorites, recognized by the crowds around their windows. The Kelp Forest is front and center. The swirling, intensive experience of the 90ft Open Sea exhibit was mind-blowing especially for scuba divers.  The real open sea is not a common place to dive.

The Monterey Bay Aquarium is cool because of its building and location. The building, Hovden Cannery an active sardine cannery from 1916-1973, perches half over the water of Monterey Bay and half on the popular Cannery Row street. The Monterey Bay Aquarium’s location directs the focus of the exhibits heavily on the waters off the coast of California. The aquarium pumps actually circulate water directly from the bay into the tanks and back out, making it literally a part of the Bay ecosystem.
Monterey Bay Aquarium is cool

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Even scuba divers need inspiration to conserve our oceans.  The truth is, I will never dive with penguins, I may never dive in a kelp forest and my brief trip to Palau may be the one and only time I ever dive with anemonefish (Nemo!). But I still love them, love seeing them, and love that a big wonderful organization like Monterey Bay Aquarium is studying how to protect them. How many of the crowds visiting the Aquarium on this Memorial Day will get to dive with these precious resources? Probably a very small percentage, but how many fell in love with them?!
How many may have been inspired to find their calling in the oceans?

Some of my Favorites

Kelp Forest

I truly hope to one day dive the kelp forests off the coast of California.  However, it is cold water diving and my current equipment is not well suited for that environment.  The Kelp Forest exhibit at Monterey Bay Aquarium offered me a glimpse of that unusual underwater habitat. The Monterey Bay Aquarium leads the world in kelp research and how to keep it alive in a tank.  They have discovered that the water (directly form the Bay) most be constantly moving in order for the kelp to survive. 

The tank looms 28 feet tall with huge kelp fronds swaying in the current overhead.  Behind the kelp lurks Leopard sharks and wolf-eels. Schools of Pacific Sardines and Northern Anchovy dart through the maze like silver arrows. The exhibit bustles with life.

With the crowds and lighting it was tough to get any great shots
of the tanks.  Check out the Monterey Bay Aquarium page on the
Kelp Forest to learn about all the inhabitants of this ecosystem.

 

 

Octopus

Octopus are wily shape-shifters in the wild, changing color and shape as they scoot along the rocky bottom.

Monterey Bay Aquarium
Red Octopus showing off his “undies”

 

 

 

 

Over the years, we have seen a few while diving but these massive Giant Pacific Octopus were amazing.
Relaxed and non-threatened, they undulated across the glass delighting the crowds.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tiny things

 

Another little guy on my diving wishlist is a sea horse.

Sea horse plays coy in the anemone

 

It requires a sharp eye and perfect conditions to capture an underwater shot of one of these sea horses. Better yet how about this knight in shining armor below:

 

Monterey Bay Aquarium is cool
Leafy Sea Dragon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So many Nemos

 

I flew all the way around the world to see anemonefish, better known as clownfish. They come in a variety of oranges and yellows with bright contrasting stripes.  They live symbiotically with anemone. When we dove in Palau we found the anemones as spectacular as the clownfish.  They also are very hard to catch in a great photo.  The anemone wave their glowing tentacles while the clownfish darts in and out warning you off.

The Monterey Bay tank boasted hundreds of clownfish strutting their colors.

 

 

 

 

Jellies

Finally, the Jellyfish. Jellyfish mesmerize me with their surreal motion. I mentioned our trip to Jellyfish Lake in Palau in an earlier post. The jellies at the Monterey Bay Aquarium are every size and color.  I think it is hard for visitors to even believe they are real.

Next to the jellies’ display a research volunteer was explaining jellyfish procreation.  This little sex-ed under a microscope was fascinating.  The docent clearly showed her excitement sharing the details.  Every staff member at the Monterey Bay Aquarium is cool.

EDUCATION

I love the concept of life-long learning.  The Monterey Bay Aquarium is cool with their commitment to ocean education. It is impossible to not learn something new about the ocean with every visit to the Aquarium. But they go way beyond teaching through their exhibits.  The Monterey Bay Aquarium provides vast resources for teachers and their classrooms. They also provide education to the general public via the digital world. Their website shares live webcams, bios and pics of hundreds of ocean celebrities, research results and details of marine careers.

 

OCEAN CONSERVATION

The Monterey Bay Aquarium explains their work in conservation as three-pronged
Research, Policy and Seafood Watch.

Seafood Watch

Scuba diving over the last 15 years transformed us into eco-aware ocean lovers. That is why the Monterey Bay Aquarium is cool to us. Our first encounter with the Aquarium conservationism was through their ground-breaking Seafood Watch program. The program started in 1999 and evolved into the most respected source of evidence-based information about the purchase and consumption of seafood. Directing businesses, individual consumers, fisheries and aquaculture towards sustainable decisions and policies.

Research

The science behind the Monterey Bay Aquarium is unparalleled.  They focus on areas of ocean population biology, ocean ecology and ocean wildlife husbandry.  The Monterey Bay Aquarium is cool with its blog, Future of the Ocean, that shares breaking news about ocean health and conservation.

 

Policy

The Monterey Bay Aquarium uses its knowledge and passion to influence policy makers in the California region, the US and even the world. Here is how they explain this vital role:

We work at local, state, national and international levels to advance policies that protect key species like sea otters, sharks and tuna—and address global threats to fisheries and human coastal communities, including overfishing, pollution and climate change.

All human existence depends on the health of our oceans and we are woefully unaware. This strikes me as an overwhelming concept that I am more comfortable ignoring.  Where do we start and what actions really make sense? Thanks to the passion and dedication of the Monterey Bay Aquarium I feel that something very impressive works to make a difference for our oceans and our planet’s health.

Ocean Travelers

Finally, I will close with one of the exhibits that especially touched me.
One of the newer exhibits at the Aquarium features fascinating examples of recycled plastic art. The art conveys the impact plastic pollution has on migrating wildlife.  Thank you to the Monterey Bay Aquarium (which if you haven’t learned by now IS COOL!) for sharing links to the exhibit Ocean Travelers and a podcast illuminating it.

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