Eco Night @ Santa Monica Aquarium

I feel like my blog is turning into a showcase of Eco Dive Center events… not that it’s a bad thing, its only because that is what’s going on right now. I’m sure more posts about all the reading, and notecard making and knowledge review taking that i’ve been doing wouldn’t be very exciting, so I’m trying to post my other dive/ocean related goings on.

One of the touch tanks, filled with sea stars.

My rescue dive class starts on March 15th and I am ready to go. I have all my reading done and have started going through the Divemaster materials. Based on talking with another guy doing the courses with me I might be acting a bit like an overachiever, but oh well, I really want to do well with these courses. Anyways, I digress.

Last night I spent the evening with folks from Eco Dive Center, at the Santa Monica Bay Aquarium. This is a tiny little aquarium nestled underneath the Santa Monica Pier. I had never been before, and if you haven’t either I would say go check it out. Its $2.00 to get in and it is very fun. The aquarium focuses on local marine life so you’re not going to find anything huge or exotic inside. What you will get is an up close look at some great animals, the opportunity to touch some (find the large black sea hare, its really soft and squishy) and a chance to talk with some awesome and knowledgeable people.

Aquarists Nick, Jose and Seth were there to answer questions and guide us around the aquarium. We got to play with the animals in the touch tanks, sea stars, sea hares, crabs, sea cucumbers, anemones, etc, it was neat to actually feel these animals that I normally just look at (or on the rare occasion touch with my neoprene gloved hand).

Aquarist Nick shows how to tell the difference between male and female sharks by looking for the claspsers.

After that we sat down for a quick Fish ID and local area information talk. Nick and Jose went through the basics of what fish we find out here, how to identify them, and some of their behaviors and characteristics. It was Ichthyology 101 in about 30 minutes. Awesome. Next they spoke on some of the problems our oceans, both globally and locally, are facing such as over fishing. Did you realize that if the current fishing practices are allowed to continue as is there will be no more fish (that we eat) in the ocean in approximately 30 years. That means that we could be the last generation to eat wild caught fish. Now I love some seafood and sushi, mmm, and would hate to see this happen so that fact really hit home. They also talked briefly on shark finning (a huge travesty! Check out the documentary Shark Water if you want to learn more about it). Ending on a good note, they brought up the new bills that folks are working to get passed which will set up Marine Protected Areas along the California coast, including places like Point Dume and Rocky Point in Palos Verdes. These protected areas are great because they will allow the ecosystem to restore itself without us constantly taking out and destroying.

The evening closed with a chance to learn more about some of the smaller local sharks, like the horn shark and swell shark, and a chance to get to feel these amazing animals. After that we got a “backstage” tour to see the how the aquarium functions. We ended the event wandering the pier from restaraunt to restaraunt until we found the one left open after 9:00pm and settled down at Bubba Gumps for a margarita and some food.

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