Top

Heal the Bay Blog

Category: Heal the Bay Aquarium

Ever wonder what it’s like to be an Aquarist at Heal the Bay Aquarium? Laura Rink, Associate Aquarium Director of Operations, spills on a day in the life.

A jack (fish) of all trades is a fitting description for what it takes to run the operations of a Heal the Bay Aquarium under the Santa Monica Pier.

Sometimes it feels like everything under the sun (fish) can be required. From filthy filters, to growing baby jellies, to system designs and adventures on our beloved Dorothy Green Boat, there is never a dull day.

While the day-to-day operations are ever changing, the purpose remains clear and constant. My job is to create and maintain exhibits for aquatic animals with the mission to inspire a world filled with humans who care about protecting wildlife and conserve our natural resources to allow diverse species to thrive.


Laura Rink presents at the PBS Nature event on July 30, 2019. Photos by Rahoul Ghose/PBS

Although rare, it is sometimes requested that we bring our animal ambassadors to offsite locations. This occasion presented itself recently when I traveled with our East Pacific Red Octopus to a PBS Nature event.

Fondly referred to as the “cats” of the cephalopods, octopuses are notorious for choosing to be social, if, and only if, they so desire to be. Fortunately, on this occasion she embraced the audience with all eight arms, showing how enriching the experience was for both her and the humans who encountered her.

If you’d like to learn more about the marine animals that call the SoCal coast home, come visit us at Heal the Bay Aquarium and sign up for our next Volunteer Orientation to go behind-the-scenes.

All fish puns are entirely intended with the nerdiest of intents.



¡Vengan a disfrutar de las actividades familiares y aprender más acerca de la vida marina local!

1. ¡Los niños de 12 años o menor entran gratis! y el precio para adultos es de solo $5 dólares. ¡En grupos de 10 o más cada persona entra por $3!


2. Con alrededor de 100 especies de animales marinos locales en exposición, actividades para los pequeños, y programas educativos diarios, el Acuario del Muelle de Santa Mónica es el lugar perfecto para sumergirse en las ciencias marinas sin tener que mojarse.


3. ¿Experiencia Virtual? ¡Si, el Acuario de El Muelle de Santa Mónica lo tiene! La exposición virtual les dará la oportunidad de explorar la vida marina que habita las aguas de la Isla Catalina, incluyendo a la lubina gigante (giant sea bass) cual se encuentra en peligro de extinción.


4. ¡Fishing for Health! ¡Pesca Saludable! El programa de Heal the Bay, Angler Outreach Program o en español El Programa de Alcance a Pescadores, lanzo una nueva oportunidad educacional bilingüe en cual aprenderán de la contaminación de peces en el condado, el consumo de pez, y maneras de cocinar para los que pescan en los muelles de Los Ángeles. ¡El programa es incluido con la entrada a el acuario y toma acabo el viernes cada dos semanas a las 2 p.m. de la tarde!


5. ¿Las estrellas del mar no son consideradas un pez? ¡Acompáñenos cada viernes de 2:30 pm a 3:00 pm para darles de comer y aprender más sobre esta especie marina!


6. ¡Tun tun, tun tun, tun tun! ¡Acompáñenos cada domingo de 3:30 pm a 4:00pm a darle de comer a nuestras dos especies de tiburones, y a la misma vez aprenda más información! A la misma vez, puede ser testigo del baile de los bebes tiburones.


7. ¿La basura en exposición? Durante su visita a nuestra acuario podrá ver una exposición de la basura cual es normalmente encontrada en nuestros océanos. Esta basura no es solo interesante para nuestros ojos, es especialmente dañina para los animales marinos. 


8. ¡Usted puede ser un voluntario! ¡Puede participar detrás de las escenas y aprender de los animales marinos! Después tendrá la oportunidad de relatar la información con los visitantes del acuario. 


9. ¿Sabían que pueden rentar el acuario para tener un evento? ¡Una celebración junto a la vida marina! Hagan clic para ver más información de como poder tener eventos en el acuario.


10. El acuario esta directamente en el muelle de Santa Monica. Después de disfrutar del acuario pueden ir a conocer el resto del muelle y disfrutar de la playa de Santa Monica y todas sus atracciones. 

 



What are some of the reasons you should visit Heal the Bay’s Aquarium under the Santa Monica Pier this February?

REASON #1. Life is over-whale-ming.

Life can whale-y be crazy sometimes! So, give yourself the gift of time outside to decompress and connect with nature. We are so lucky to be able to do this during the winter in L.A. So, celebrate #WorldWhaleDay with us on Feb. 16 and make a special visit to our Aquarium for Whale of a Weekend. Aquarium naturalists will host a wildlife observation station at the west end of the Santa Monica Pier. Spy for migrating Pacific gray whales through binoculars and explore field guides to identify local birds and marine life. You’ll feel relaxed after staring out over the horizon for a bit—trust us!


REASON #2. The news is a bunch abalone

Sick of click bait? Come experience something real for a change. Featured in our newly reopened touch tank is a species of marine snail known as the Red Abalone (Hailotis rufescens). Red abalone are one of seven species of abalone found along the California coast. These animals are found in rocky areas with kelp, which serves as their most primary food source.

Unfortunately, due to overharvesting, disease, predation, and starvation, these marine snails have struggled to maintain high levels of population. As a result, the California Fish and Game Commission closed commercial abalone fishing in 1997 and have recently closed recreational fishing until 2021. Fortunately, there has been some success in the aquaculture of this species allowing for the outplanting of adults when they grow to maturity. Speak to our knowledgeable Aquarium staff to learn about abalone and how to protect them.


REASON #3. You have a case of the Mondays. 

This should help: Our Aquarium is now open on Mondays. Start your week by meeting some of the locals and exploring 100s of animal and wildlife species that call the California coast their home.

VISIT OUR AQUARIUM

 



Every year around Valentine’s Day, our Aquarium celebrates its love for whales – just in time to mark the annual migration of the Pacific gray whale.

Pacific gray whales undergo a gargantuan 10,000-mile roundtrip journey between the Arctic and Mexico each year. These gentle giants breed and give birth in the warm Baja waters in late fall/early winter before heading back north with their calves around February. The migration takes the whales through the Santa Monica Bay – sometimes close enough to be spotted from the West end of the Pier.

A photo posted by Dale Frink (@dalefrink) on

Make sure to stop by for Whale of a Weekend on February 16-17 at Heal the Bay’s Aquarium (and don’t forget to celebrate World Whale Day on Feb. 16). From baleen to blubber, you’ll leave with a ton of knowledge. Be sure to take a look through our binoculars from the observation deck; you might just spy a whale!

Our Top Ten Facts About Whales

  1. Whales only breathe through their blowholes – they can’t breathe through their mouths.
  2. There are two categories of cetaceans (whales): those with teeth and those without.
  3. Toothless whales, called baleen whales, include the Pacific gray whale, blue, humpback, fin, and right whales.
  4. Toothed whales include orcas, belugas, dolphins, narwhals, porpoises and sperm whales.
  5. Nearly 90% of all cetaceans are toothed whales.
  6. Baleen whales are the largest mammals on earth but they eat some of the smallest creatures in the ocean: tiny zooplankton.
  7. Baleen whales have two spout openings (like having two nostril openings).
  8. Toothed whales only have one spout opening.
  9. Narwhals actually only have two teeth. One of those teeth is the large spiral shaped ivory tusk that develops through their upper lip.
  10. When baleen whales blow air out of their spout, it creates a spray that sometimes comes out heart-shaped.



December is the Month of the Seahorse at our Aquarium!

From frosty, festive seahorse-themed winter holiday events all along the Santa Monica Pier, to our month-long seahorse feeding and crafts exhibit at the Aquarium, our Pacific Seahorses are the sparkling (sea) stars this season.

To learn what Pacific Seahorses eat and how they thrive, come participate in our special educational presentations every Friday, Saturday and Sunday at 1PM. The Seahorse Celebration at both the Aquarium and Pier will end January 6. So swim on by soon and join in the festivities.

After the presentation, help us decorate the Merry-go-Round with a festive seahorse coloring page. Write a wish on the coloring page that will be strung along the Merry-go-round, and seen by all Pier visitors.

Feelin’ inspired by all this talk about seahorses? We encourage you to Aquadopt a Pacific Seahorse and provide for the care and feeding of the animal, plus much more!

Please note: The Aquarium will be closed during December 24 and 25, but will be opened special extended hours of 12:30 PM to 5 PM from Wednesday, December 26, to Sunday, December 30th. The Aquarium will be closed on Tuesday, January 1st to observe the New Year, but open on Wednesday, January 2 for regular hours.



¿Has pensado explorar lo que existe bajo la superficie de nuestro Océano Pacífico y de los animales acuáticos que lo habitan?

El único problema es que ¡no podemos bucear sin equipo, ni permanecer por largo tiempo en aguas frías!

Celebrando #UnderwaterParksDay

Este sábado 20 de enero, en el acuario del muelle de Santa Monica, vengan a celebrar y a disfrutar de la belleza marina y a participar en nuestro nuevo evento virtual llamado Underwater Parks Day.

Nuestros científicos revelarán las maravillas de nuestros paraísos acuáticos a través de una experiencia de video muy cautivadora. Usando gafas especiales, tendrán la oportunidad de bucear y explorar la vida marina del área de Long Point en la Isla Catalina ¡sin mojarse!

Nuestra nueva exposición virtual les dará la oportunidad de explorar la vida marina que habita las aguas de la Isla Catalina, incluyendo a la lubina gigante (giant sea bass) que se encuentra en peligro de extinción.

Nuestro agradecimiento a Alex Warham y a Diatom Productions por hacer estas imágenes de la vida marina fascinantes y disponibles para el público en general.

The BOSCO—una compañía destacada en instalaciones fotográficas, proveerá de recuerdos gratuitos para todos los visitantes, los mismos que tendrán la oportunidad también de tomarse una fotografía con animales acuáticos desde una cabina fotográfica. Todas las fotos serán compartidas con los visitantes a través de correos electrónicos y tendrán la oportunidad de participar en una petición diseñada para proteger las áreas marinas.

Todas estas actividades estarán incluidas con la entrada al acuario.

Honrando a las Áreas Marinas Protegidas

A partir del 2011, una red de áreas marinas protegidas o parques subacuáticos, fueron establecidas en El

Sur de California. Heal the Bay ha trabajado en asociación y con el estado de California para identificar áreas de estos territorios especiales donde la vida marina pueda mejorarse.

Las áreas marinas protegidas están presentes en las aguas de Point Dume en Malibu, Catalinas Island, Abalone Cove en Palos Verdes, y en Point Vicente. Nuestros logros como guardianes de nuestras áreas marinas protegidas han sido posible a través de la educación, investigación, supervisión y programas de apoyo.

Si no pueden asistir al evento de Underwater Parks Day, únanse al programa de MPA Watch como voluntario y ayuden a monitorear estos lugares especiales en las costas de Malibu y Palos Verdes.



Have you ever wondered what lies beneath the surface of our big beautiful Pacific Ocean? Ever pondered what animals lurk in the deep, both big and small?

But there’s just one hitch – you don’t know how to SCUBA dive or have the nerve to brave its chilly waters.

Celebrating #UnderwaterParksDay with “Underwater Treasure”

Well, we’ve got you covered with a new virtual exhibit called “Underwater Treasure” – at our Underwater Parks Day celebration in Heal the Bay’s Santa Monica Pier Aquarium. Families and friends of the sea are encouraged to come!

Our scientists will reveal the wonders of our local underwater paradises through a 360-degree experience. Donning special goggles, guests will have the opportunity to dive into the Catalina Island Long Point marine protected area and explore its vibrant marine life without getting wet.

Visitors to our new virtual exhibit will be able to see the animals that call the waters off Catalina Island home, including a peek at the endangered giant sea bass – the so-called ‘VW Bus of the Sea’. We thank our creative partner Alex Warham and his company Diatom Productions for making these astounding underwater images available to the general public.

All special activities are included with Aquarium Admission.

Honoring Marine Protected Areas

In 2011, a network of marine protected areas, or underwater parks, became effective in Southern California, providing safe haven for ocean wildlife. Heal the Bay spent years working with partners and the State of California to identify areas for these special places to be strategically located for enhancement of marine life populations.

Marine protected areas are present in the waters off of Point Dume in Malibu, Catalina Island, and Palos Verdes’ Abalone Cove and Point Vicente. We have continued on as guardians of our local marine protected areas through research, educationmonitoring and advocacy programs.

Can’t join us for Underwater Parks Day? Come join us as an MPA Watch volunteer and help monitor these special places from shore in Malibu and Palos Verdes.

(En español)



Heal the Bay Year In Review 2017

 

It’s been a hot year, but these 7 memories helped us keep our cool.

 

7. Marching for Science, NOT Silence.
Fighting Federal rollbacks with 50,000 Angelenos. Watch Facebook LIVE video >


(Photo Credit: Austin Francalancia)


 

6. Skipping the Straw.
Empowering local business patrons to reduce plastic pollution in our seas. See campaign >

Plastic Free


 

5. Protecting the Pacific Seahorse.
Caring for local animals and willdlife at our S.M. Pier Aquarium. Explore our Aquarium >

Pacific Seahorse


 

4. Changing the Course of the L.A. River.
Expanding the River Report Card to protect public health and habitats. View the River Report Card >


 

3. Championing Community Cleanups.
Leading 37,000+ volunteers to remove 418,000+ trash and debris items. Sign up for a 2018 cleanup >

Los Angeles Beach Cleanup


 

2. Bringing Back Ballona.
Advocating for the robust restoration of L.A.’s last remaining large wetland. Get the latest update >


 

1. YOU!
Your voice. Your time. Your energy. Your contribution. Thank YOU.

We want to make new memories and powerful change next year. But, we can’t do it without the support of ocean lovers like you.


Year in Review Infographics


Will you make your tax deductible Year-End Gift today?
(If you’ve already given this season, thank you.)

Make Your Year-End Gift



We are lucky to live in sunny Los Angeles where millions of tourists and locals converge along the lovely shores of the Santa Monica Bay to enjoy paradise. It’s a mixed bag on the beach, where hordes of visitors come to bathe and sun themselves. Why? Well, they know just how good we have it.

Yep, they want a piece of the Angeleno culture, and the beach, and our Bay. If you haven’t been out to the beach yet, well may I suggest you hop on the Metro, or your bike, or drive down for a visit. You’re not going to regret it, especially since we have so much happening underwater too. On your next visit to the beach you may be lucky enough to encounter a local that most people miss altogether.

Sharks are swimming along the shores of this Bay and they are swimming alongside you and those fine visitors that come to live the California dream. In fact, there are more than 20 different species of sharks1 that inhabit or visit these waters. One of my favorites sharks to see in the summertime is the leopard shark. An elegant fish, the leopard shark is gray with spots and saddle-bars, usually reaching a length of five feet or so. They like to school with their kin and other sharks like smooth greyhounds, eating small fish, octopus and crustaceans along the shallows.

A leopard shark swims through kelp.

Another favorite is the horn shark. You might see these sharks if you are snorkeling around the rocky shores of Point Dume or off of Palos Verdes. At three and a half feet long, this squat nosed fish has two pokey spines (not venomous) at each dorsal fin – an adaptation for protection. Since they hatch from an egg, measuring a mere six inches, those spiny horns protect this cute little shark from halibut and other marine predators. To be honest, they are so cute that sometimes when I see them diving, I cannot resist reaching out and giving them a kiss for good luck. Another local favorite is the swell shark, a small shark that protects itself by swallowing an enormous amount of water to protect itself from being swallowed – like a swimming watermelon! Their eggs are sometimes found washed on shore but if you want to get a close-up look, I invite you to visit Heal the Bay’s Santa Monica Pier Aquarium. The Aquarium has several eggs on display where you can witness the tiny embryos growing into tiny shark pups.

A horn shark swims along the ocean floor. Photo by Scott Gietler.

One of my favorite sea animals to see is the white shark, lovingly known as “the Landlord.” I have been lucky enough to swim with and surf with a few small white sharks and it seems like each year we are seeing more and more of them. Why are there white sharks in SoCal and why so many? Well, we are probably witnessing something really special because the coast of southern California is like a nursery. These white sharks are here because food is available and they like to eat small fish, like stingrays. We have been working hard to protect white sharks and maybe this is the positive result of all of our conservation efforts. Let’s hope so because this fish is a very important indicator of how well our oceans are faring. As a top predator, we expect that their recovery is indicative of an improving food web and ecosystem. It is still early to be absolutely sure but I do hope that we continue to see improvements in their population and in the health of our fisheries.

I am proud to work for Heal the Bay because I know that the work we have done over the past three decades has improved the life of our local sharks and is helping to restore and protect our unique and fragile ecosystem. We started our work in the 1980s by improving water quality in our watersheds and our Bay. That work continues daily, and we have expanded healing efforts by supporting and ushering in a network of Marine Protect Areas (MPAs) all along our coast. MPAs function like underwater parks, where marine life can live free from fishing pressure, promoting more growth, reproduction and species diversity.

We’ve worked alongside many of our colleagues and communities to pass a statewide ban on the possession and sale of shark fins. Shark finning is a cruel and destructive practice that is decimating shark populations worldwide. At our Aquarium, we teach tens of thousands of students and visitors about sharks, debunking the myths and providing the facts so that everyone can do their part to help sharks.

We still have a great deal of work to do. We need to keep eliminating plastics and other pollution from our ocean, we need to continue to educate our communities on how to be healthy in order to keep our seas and beaches healthy and we need to continue our love affair with nature. All this starts with you. Join us at Heal the Bay as a volunteer or a member, and join us in the fight to protect our environment.

You, your family and friends need a good day at the beach. If you’re lucky, maybe you will see a shark. Regardless, you live in paradise and it is right outside your door. I hope to see you out there. Even if you can’t make it into the water, you can still visit us at the Santa Monica Pier Aquarium!

1http://content.cdlib.org/view?docId=kt938nb3cq&&doc.view=entire_text



In honor of dads and grads and in celebration of the male seahorse’s unique role in childbirth, the Santa Monica Pier Aquarium’s seahorses are available for aquadoption.

Fostering a seahorse through the Aquarium’s Aquadoption program is a special way to connect with an animal; leave the actual daily care to Aquarium staff while you can feel proud of your important contribution to this unique creature’s well being.

Growing up to 12 inches in height, the Pacific seahorse, Hippocampus ingens, is among the largest of the world’s seahorses and the only one to be found along the California coast. In the seahorse family, the males do all the heavy lifting, carrying an amazing number of eggs in their brood pouch, deposited there by the female. The male can give birth to hundreds of babies – known as fry – at one time.

A yearlong aquadoption of a seahorse comes with a personalized packet with an adoption certificate, photo, fact sheet and a full year’s membership to Heal the Bay – which includes free family admission to the Aquarium for the year.