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cannery rowThe two story build­ing once was the largest sar­dine can­nery just before WWI when there was a need for pro­tein rich food by the over­seas army forces. Now it has been trans­formed into an aquar­ium it still is the largest build­ing on Can­nery row.

The set up of Mon­terey Bay Aquar­ium is based on and present the var­i­ous habi­tats and flora and fauna of Mon­terey Bay. At some point they do not live up to their mis­sion though, because I don’t think pen­guins belong to the native wildlife of Mon­terey Bay. Cer­tainly not black-​footed pen­guins or African pen­guins which are only found exclu­sively in Africa. The pen­guin enclo­sure, by the way, is not very impres­sive and pro­vides a rather small pool for the black-​footed pen­guins. On the other hand there is the walk-​through aviary that is sit­u­ated indoors but has access to the out­side. Via the wire-​mesh fences the fresh ocean winds can come inside this part of the enclo­sure. Sev­eral indige­nous shore birds can be seen here, such as the black oys­ter­catcher and the red phalarope (Phalaro­pus fuli­car­ius) in its breed­ing plumage, due to the time of the year of course.

Since the pol­luted bay area became so clean that kelp is grow­ing there again dif­fer­ent native species flour­ish also, such as the sea otter, their flag­ship species. In all their tanks they use the clean pris­tine bay water, and with this water inver­te­brates are com­ing in and will grow nat­u­rally in the aquar­ium basins. That way they present local flora and fauna in the Aquar­ium quite lit­er­ally. More­over, they go to great lengths in their exhi­bi­tions to show how frag­ile these habi­tats are. Their edu­ca­tional exhi­bi­tions about marine pol­lu­tion, its effect on marine life and mankind are pro­found. The story about all the plas­tics we dump in the envi­ron­ment and which finally end up in the gyres of the ocean con­tains a very strong message.

Feed­ing time at the Aquarium’s Open Sea exhibit is for many peo­ple the high­light of their visit to Mon­terey. The largest tank at the Aquar­ium pro­vides enough space for the dif­fer­ent fish species to coex­ist. The school of sar­dines, prey species for the Pacific blue tuna, spend most of their day at the bot­tom of the tank and only dur­ing feed­ing they move upwards and show their mar­vel­lous capac­ity to move as one entity, as a cloud through the exhibit (see video). After being fed, the sar­dines move down­wards again to avoid the preda­tor fish when they get their meal. It seems that, now and again, the more care­less sar­dines end up in the preda­tors’ stomachs.

View­ing the Pacific sea net­tle (Chrysaora fuscescens) and the moon jel­ly­fish (Aure­lia aurita) in Mon­terey Bay Aquar­ium water tanks can be a mes­meris­ing and relax­ing expe­ri­ence due to the slow but steady move­ment of these jel­ly­fish (video). I missed the ‘Secret Lives of Sea­horses’ exhibit, but I have been told this is great and as good as many of the other exhibits in Mon­terey Bay Aquarium.

sea otter inthewildThe Aquar­ium is about rais­ing aware­ness of Mon­terey Bay nature and ecosys­tems. Exactly this spe­cific mis­sion makes the Aquar­ium inter­est­ing in my opin­ion. They focus on that spe­cific loca­tion while sit­u­ated at the shores of the Bay. So the effect of their con­ser­va­tion effort regard­ing the sea otters is illus­trated right out­side. Mon­terey Bay Aquarium’s mis­sion is sav­ing injured and orphaned sea otters to return them in the wild. From the view­ing decks on the Bay­side you have excel­lent views on the Mon­terey Bay, and wild sea otters (Enhy­dra lutris) are there to be seen. The ones that can­not take care of them­selves (yet) can be seen inside, in the sea otter pool, but out­side at open sea in front of the Aquar­ium build­ings you can see these mag­nif­i­cent crea­tures in the wild. In the video it seems as if the cap­tive otter is mak­ing its way through to open sea via a tun­nel, though this is actu­ally not the case.

They are very suc­cess­ful at the Aquar­ium in res­cu­ing sea otters (see here) and their work sup­ports the fed­eral gov­ern­ment, which pro­tect and man­age the South­ern sea otter by law. This is a good thing of course, but it also means that it is not allowed to export any sea otter out­side the United States. In fact, it means that some­times cubs born in cap­tiv­ity in Cal­i­forn­ian zoo­log­i­cal estab­lish­ments that can­not be returned in the wild, have to be euth­a­nized when there is no zoo or aquar­ium within US bound­aries able to keep them. While I know that there are many zoos and aquar­i­ums in Europe that want to add sea otters to their ani­mal collection.

Goal: 7000 tigers in the wild

Tiger range countries map

Tiger map” (CC BY 2.5) by Sander­son et al., 2006.


about zoos and their mis­sion regard­ing breed­ing endan­gered species, nature con­ser­va­tion, bio­di­ver­sity and edu­ca­tion, which of course relates to the evo­lu­tion of species.
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