The aquarium's logo depicts giant kelp
Main entrance in 2016
|Slogan||To inspire conservation of the oceans|
|Date opened||October 20, 1984|
|Location||Cannery Row, Monterey, California|
|Floor space||322,000 square feet (29,900 square meters)|
|No. of animals||35,000|
|No. of species||more than 550|
|Volume of largest tank||1.2 million U.S. gallons (4.5 million liters)|
|Total volume of tanks||2.3 million U.S. gallons (8.7 million liters)|
|Annual visitors||more than 2 million (2014, 2015)|
|Memberships||Association of Zoos and Aquariums|
|Major exhibits||Kelp Forest, Sea Otters, Jellies, Open Sea|
|Public transit access||Monterey-Salinas Transit|
Monterey Bay Aquarium is a nonprofit public aquarium in Monterey, California. The aquarium is known for its regional focus on the marine habitats of Monterey Bay, being the first institution to exhibit a living kelp forest. Its biologists have pioneered the animal husbandry of jellyfish and, as of 2016 , it remains the only public aquarium to have successfully exhibited a great white shark for longer than 16 days. The aquarium participates in various animal breeding programs, publishes scientific research, and hosts and partakes in conferences. Seafood Watch, the aquarium's seafood consumer awareness program, has had an influential role among consumers and businesses in enhancing sustainable fishing practices. The aquarium provides educational programs to schoolchildren and teachers in California, and it has a measurable impact on the economy of Monterey County.
Monterey Bay Aquarium has had an average annual attendance of 1.8 million visitors, totaling over 50 million between its opening in 1984 and 2016. The aquarium has been called "a definite leader" by its accrediting organization, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. It has been the subject of multiple PBS Nature documentaries and has won numerous awards throughout its history for its exhibition of marine life, ocean conservation efforts, educational programs, and architecture. The aquarium has received accolades from the media and the travel industry. TripAdvisor ranked it as the number one public aquarium in the world in 2014. In 2015, it was listed by Parents magazine as the top public aquarium in the United States and the highest rated destination on the West Coast.
Three separate proposals for aquariums in Monterey County occurred in 1914, 1925, and 1944, but financial backing and public support for the ideas were not sufficient. In the late 1970s, four marine biologists affiliated with San Jose State University and Stanford University's Hopkins Marine Station discussed the concept of opening an aquarium on the 3.3-acre (1.3 ha) site of the former Hovden Cannery, the last sardine cannery to close on Cannery Row.[note 1]David Packard commissioned a feasibility study for the potential aquarium as his daughter was one of the four collaborating biologists. The proposed aquarium was predicted to attract 350,000 paying visitors annually, so Packard donated US$7 million for the construction of the building. After seven years of construction and US$47 million more from Packard, totaling US$54 million, Monterey Bay Aquarium opened on October 20, 1984 as the largest public aquarium in the United States. Approximately 2.4 million people visited the aquarium within the following year. Five years after the aquarium opened, it was reported in the Los Angeles Times that it was one of California's most popular visitor attractions. By 1994, it was the most popular aquarium in the United States by number of visits.
The aquarium is known for its regional focus on Monterey Bay and its display of marine life communities. While public aquariums at the time typically exhibited individual species, the work of marine biologist Ed Ricketts inspired an ecological approach to the layout of Monterey Bay Aquarium's original facility.EHDD, the aquarium's architectural firm, was awarded a National Honor Award from the American Institute of Architects in 1988 for the design of the original facility. The institute's state chapter in California gave the aquarium its Twenty-five Year Award in 2011 and, in 2016, Monterey Bay Aquarium was awarded the institute's national Twenty-five Year Award, described as "a benchmark and role model for aquariums everywhere."
In 1996, the aquarium opened a second wing of aquarium exhibits called the Outer Bay that focuses on the pelagic habitat 60 miles (97 km) offshore of Monterey Bay. Costing US$57 million and taking seven years to develop, the wing almost doubled the aquarium's public exhibit space. A US$19 million renovation in 2011 added components to the wing and its name was changed to the Open Sea. Other smaller additions and modifications have been made to the aquarium's facility. As of 2016, the aquarium has also developed numerous temporary exhibitions since the late-1980s.
Monterey Bay Aquarium developed a program in 1999 to allow consumers eating seafood to choose species based on the sustainability rating of each fishery. This program has continued to evolve and has placed the aquarium in an influential position, impacting both fisheries management and the public discussion regarding seafood sustainability.
Monterey Bay Aquarium displays 35,000 animals belonging to over 550 species in 2.3 million U.S. gallons (8,700,000 L) of water. Filtered seawater from Monterey Bay is pumped into the Kelp Forest and other exhibits at 2,000 US gallons (7,600 L) per minute. This automated seawater system is controlled electronically via more than 10,000 data points.Control systems that maintain life support components for the animals are mostly automated, tracking various chemical parameters and reducing the likelihood for human error during repetitive tasks such as filter media backwashing.
In 2014, the aquarium stated that it takes no official position on the controversy of captive killer whales or other cetaceans. The aquarium was not constructed to house cetaceans, instead utilizing the 27 species of marine mammals that live in or travel through Monterey Bay as one of its exhibits by offering the opportunity to see wild marine mammals from decks that overlook the bay.
At 28 feet (8.5 m) tall and 65 feet (20 m) long, the Kelp Forest exhibit is the focal point of Monterey Bay Aquarium's Ocean's Edge wing. Nearly three stories high, the exhibit is regarded as the first successful attempt to maintain a living kelp forest in an aquarium setting. Kelp forests are important ecosystems along California's coast--compared to tropical rainforests in their biodiversity--and the exhibit contains giant kelp alongside species of fish indigenous to Monterey Bay, including rockfishes and leopard sharks. The exhibit's success at sustaining giant kelp is partly attributed to the surge machine (a large plunger) that was designed and constructed by David Packard, allowing the kelp in the exhibit to grow an average of 4 inches (10 cm) per day.
Monterey Bay Aquarium's Open Sea wing consists of three separate galleries: various jellyfish and other plankton found in Monterey Bay; a pelagic, large community exhibit; and "ocean travelers", featuring tufted puffins and sea turtles. When the exhibition opened in 1996, the San Francisco Chronicle reported the aquarium had the most jellyfish on exhibit in the world. In 1997, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums awarded the wing its Exhibit Award.
Holding 1.2 million US gallons (4,500,000 L), the wing's Open Sea community exhibit is the aquarium's largest tank. Made out of fiberglass-reinforced plastic, it is 80 feet (24 m) long and 35 feet (11 m) deep.[note 2] In 2011, fish species reported to be in the exhibit included green sea turtles, sardines, pelagic stingrays, scalloped hammerhead sharks, sandbar sharks, mahi-mahi, mackerel, bluefin and yellowfin tunas, and ocean sunfishes. Historically, the exhibit also included blue sharks and California barracuda.Six great white sharks were displayed in the Open Sea exhibit between 2004-2011, an effort contested by some but generally described as having a positive scientific and educational impact. Prior to the display of the first white shark for six months before its release, the longest length of time that a white shark survived in an aquarium was 16 days.
A 10-month, US$19 million renovation of the wing concluded in July 2011 to refurbish the Open Sea community exhibit. Turbulent swimming patterns of 300-pound (140 kg) tunas were dismantling the exhibit's structural glass tiles, which the sea turtles were subsequently eating, so the exhibit was drained after all 10,000 animals were caught. Supplemental exhibits were added as part of this renovation featuring artwork that highlights current issues in ocean conservation, including overfishing and plastic pollution.
In 2014, the aquarium had almost 200 exhibits with live animals organized into various galleries. Monterey Bay Aquarium was the first public aquarium to have its interior mapped on Google Street View, creating a virtual walking tour.
African penguins on exhibit
Monterey Bay Aquarium began creating temporary exhibitions (or "special exhibitions") in order to display animals that are found outside of Monterey Bay. The first of these, titled "Mexico's Secret Sea", focused on the Sea of Cortez in 1989. Most exhibitions since then have focused on animal groups, including deep-sea animals (1999), sharks (2004), otters (2007), seahorses (2009),cephalopods (2014), and jellyfish. In 2010, an exhibition titled "Hot Pink Flamingos" was one of the first aquarium exhibitions in the United States to explicitly discuss the effects of global warming on habitats and animals. The aquarium displayed terrestrial animals for the first time--including a tarantula, a snake, and a scorpion--in a US$3.8 million exhibit on ecosystems of Baja California that opened in 2016.
In 1989, a second temporary exhibition titled "Living Treasures of the Pacific" included three jellyfish tanks following the successful display of one tank of moon jellies four years earlier in 1985. In 1992, the aquarium opened a temporary exhibition devoted to jellyfish called "Planet of the Jellies", the success of which prompted a permanent jellyfish gallery within the Open Sea wing in 1996. Within 20 years of opening Planet of the Jellies, the aquarium created two more temporary exhibitions centered on jellyfish; the most recent of which opened in 2012 and displayed around 16 species of jellyfish from around the world. Aquarium staff members attribute the organization's fascination with jellyfish to their visual appeal, primitive biology, and reputed calming effect on visitors.
Monterey Bay Aquarium helped create momentum for the establishment of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary in 1992, one of the largest marine protected areas in the United States. In partnership with Stanford University the aquarium also runs the Center for Ocean Solutions, which participates in ocean science, policy, and law for the public, private, and community sectors. In 2015, the aquarium was a founding member of the Aquarium Conservation Partnership, a collaboration between 17 public aquariums in the United States for endeavors related to ocean conservation.
The Association of Zoos and Aquariums has awarded the aquarium with two awards for its efforts in propagating captive animals--including one for purple-striped jellies in 1992--and also its general conservation award for the aquarium's Sea Otter Research and Conservation Program. In October 2017, the aquarium received the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums' Conservation Award for its "commitment to ocean protection and public awareness". Aquarium researchers have also authored many scientific publications in peer-reviewed journals of various disciplines involving sea otters, great white sharks, and tunas.
Monterey Bay Aquarium's Sea Otter Research and Conservation program began in 1984 to research and rehabilitate wild southern sea otters. As of October 2017, more than 800 individuals had completed the rehabilitation program and researchers have collected data on wild sea otter populations using electronic tags. An otter rescued in 2001 began the aquarium's surrogacy program, in which adult female sea otters that have been rehabilitated but cannot be released act as surrogate mothers to stranded sea otter pups. The aquarium was the only sea otter rehabilitation site in California until The Marine Mammal Center began expanding a program for sea otters in 2017. On October 16, 2013, PBS Nature aired a documentary about the aquarium's work with sea otters titled "Saving Otter 501".
Shorebirds, such as the threatened western snowy plover, are also rehabilitated and released. Since around 1998, the aquarium has worked with Point Blue Conservation Science to rescue western snowy plover eggs and raise them until they are independent enough for release. The two organizations released 180 individuals in 2012, and about 100 individuals in 2013. The aquarium's endangered African penguins are part of an Association of Zoos and Aquariums species survival plan, a program that identifies genetically important birds and allows specific breeding activity to occur. Five chicks have hatched in the aquarium's penguin colony as of 2014 and some of those have been sent to other accredited institutions. Beginning in June 2007, the aquarium offers a public presentation with its rehabilitated Laysan albatross that has a wingspan of 6 feet (1.8 m). The program's goal is to inform visitors of the dangers that ocean plastic pollution causes for animals, especially the 21 species of albatrosses.
Pacific bluefin and yellowfin tunas have been historically displayed in the aquarium's Open Sea community exhibit, some reaching more than 300 pounds (140 kg). In 2011, three dozen fishes of the two species were on exhibit. Prior to opening the Open Sea wing in 1996, the aquarium established the Tuna Research and Conservation Center in 1994 in partnership with Stanford University's Hopkins Marine Station. Aquarium researchers and Barbara Block--professor of marine sciences at Stanford University--have tagged wild Pacific bluefin tunas to study predator-prey relationships, and have also investigated tuna endothermy with captive tunas at the center. To improve international collaboration of bluefin tuna management, Monterey Bay Aquarium and Stanford University hosted a symposium in January 2016 in Monterey. Over 200 scientists, fisheries managers, and policy makers gathered to discuss solutions to the decline of Pacific bluefin tuna populations.
Aquarists also propagate animals behind the scenes for the aquarium's exhibits. Since 1985, the aquarium has been deeply involved in jellyfish propagation, creating three temporary exhibitions and one permanent aquarium gallery within the Open Sea wing. In August 2016, aquarists cultured comb jellies for the first time in a laboratory, which may allow them to become a model organism. Beginning in 2012, the aquarium began to culture many species of cephalopods in preparation for a temporary exhibition that opened in 2014. For the duration of the exhibition, half of the animals were cultured because of their short life cycles. A display in the exhibition showcased how aquarists rear different species of cephalopods, including bigfin reef squid, which live for only about six months. In partnership with Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, at least two deep-sea cephalopod species were displayed in the exhibition, including flapjack octopuses and the vampire squid.
In 1984, the aquarium's first attempt to display a great white shark lasted 11 days, ending when the shark died because it did not eat. Through a later program named Project White Shark, six white sharks were exhibited between 2004 and 2011 in the aquarium's Open Sea community exhibit - which was constructed in the 1990s. The aquarium's success at exhibiting white sharks has been attributed to the use of a net pen to acclimate the sharks to captivity before being transported from the ocean, and also the 3,000-US-gallon (11,000 L) portable tank used to house the fish for transport to the aquarium.
Although at least one organization criticized the aquarium for attempting to keep white sharks in captivity, several independent shark researchers expressed approval for Project White Shark because of its logistical design, educational impact, and scientific insights. Regarding its educational impact, a white shark researcher from Australia stated in 2006 that "the fact people can come and see these animals and learn from them is of immeasurable value." The first captive white shark--on exhibit in 2004 for more than six months--was seen by one million visitors, and another million visitors saw either the second or third white sharks on display. As of 2016, Monterey Bay Aquarium is the only public aquarium in the world to have successfully exhibited a white shark for longer than 16 days.
The aquarium's attempts to display captive white sharks ended in 2011 due to the project's high resource intensity. Captive white sharks also incurred injuries and killed other animals in the exhibit after becoming increasingly aggressive, and the final shark died due to unknown reasons immediately following its release. Although no longer on exhibit for the public, aquarium scientists have continued to conduct research on white sharks. Collaborating with Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute in June 2016, aquarium scientists created cameras attached to harmless dorsal fin tags in an attempt to study the behavior of white sharks during their gathering known as the White Shark Café.
Monterey Bay Aquarium's consumer-based Seafood Watch program encourages sustainable seafood purchasing from fisheries that are "well managed and caught or farmed in ways that cause little harm to habitats or other wildlife." It began in 1999 as a result of a popular component of a temporary exhibition and grew to consist of a website, six regional pocket guides, and mobile apps that allow consumers to check the sustainability ratings of specific fisheries. The program has expanded to include business collaborations, local and national restaurant and grocer partnerships, and outreach partnerships--primarily other public aquariums and zoos. Large-scale business and grocer affiliations include Aramark, Compass Group, Target, and Whole Foods Market. In both 2009 and 2015, Seafood Watch was reportedly playing an influential role in the development of sustainable business practices within the global fishing industry.
By 2014, fifteen years after its inception, the program had produced more than 52 million printed pocket guides. Its mobile apps were downloaded over one million times between 2009 and 2015. In 2003, the program's website was granted a MUSE Award from the American Alliance of Museums for use of media and technology in science. Bon Appétit magazine awarded its Tastemaker of the Year award to Seafood Watch in 2008 and, in 2013, Sunset magazine described it as one of "the most effective consumer-awareness programs".
In September 2016, the United States Agency for International Development announced it was cooperating with the aquarium to improve fisheries management in the Asia-Pacific.
Monterey Bay Aquarium plays an active role in federal and state politics, from sponsoring governmental legislation about the ocean to persuading voter action from its visitors and online followers. The aquarium was a leading sponsor for the statewide shark fin ban in 2011. After the ban's success, the aquarium shifted its efforts to focus on ocean plastic pollution. It produced advertisements, webpages, and podcasts in 2016 in support of California Proposition 67 for a statewide ban on single-use plastic grocery bags. The aquarium hosted a plastic pollution conference through the Aquarium Conservation Partnership in December 2016: and, in July 2017, the aquarium and other members of the partnership began eliminating their own plastic products.
In March 2017, Monterey Bay Aquarium publicly endorsed the March for Science, a series of rallies and marches that occurred around the world on Earth Day the following April. Penguins at the aquarium marched in their own miniature demonstration. The aquarium has participated in multiple conferences hosted by the United Nations that focus on the ocean, including the 2017 United Nations Ocean Conference.
Each year approximately 75,000 students, teachers, and chaperones from California access Monterey Bay Aquarium for free. An additional 1,500 low-income students, 350 teenagers, and 1,200 teachers participate in structured educational programs throughout the year. Between 1984 and 2014, the aquarium hosted more than 2 million students. A 13,000-square-foot (1,200-square-meter), US$30 million education center being developed by the aquarium is expected to open in 2018, and will double the number of students and teachers the aquarium is able to work with each year.
Monterey Bay Aquarium received a Webby Award in 2000 for "distributing information related to scientific exploration" and has won four awards from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums for its programs in the categories of education and diversity. In 2015, the Silicon Valley Business Journal awarded the aquarium with a Community Impact Award for its efforts to "shape a new generation of ocean conservation leaders."
Monterey Bay Aquarium employed over 500 people and had 1,200 active volunteers in 2015. Between 1984 and 2014, 8,500 volunteers donated 3.2 million community service hours to the aquarium. The aquarium attracts around 2 million visitors each year and, in 2015, served 290,000 annual members.
Free admission programs are offered for Monterey County residents including "Shelf to Shore", with the county's free library system, and "Free to Learn", with local nonprofit organizations and Monterey-Salinas Transit. Additionally, the aquarium offers free admission to Monterey County residents during a weeklong event in December, which grew from almost 17,000 visitors in 1998 to 50,000 visitors in 2013. In 2014, the program was expanded to include neighboring Santa Cruz and San Benito counties. An annual event called "Día del Niño" offers bilingual feeding presentations (in Spanish), activities, and free admission for children under the age of 13.
In 2013, the aquarium's operational spending and its 2 million visitors generated US$263 million to the economy of Monterey County. In August 2016, an evening event at Monterey Bay Aquarium raised over US$110,000 for the Community Foundation for Monterey County's drive to provide relief for the Soberanes Fire.
Monterey Bay Aquarium has been featured in two documentaries on Nature; the aquarium allowed filmmakers behind-the-scenes access for "Oceans in Glass" in 2006, and "Saving Otter 501" followed the aquarium's sea otter rehabilitation program in 2013. The aquarium also heavily supported and was featured in BBC's "Big Blue Live", a 2015 live television program about Monterey Bay that won a BAFTA TV Award in 2016.
The aquarium served as the filming location for the fictitious Cetacean Institute in the 1986 film Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. In the 2016 film Finding Dory, the aquarium inspired the design of the fish hospital that the characters visit, and the aquarium's animals served as models for the film's animated characters. A scene from the HBO miniseries Big Little Lies, which aired in 2017, was filmed at the aquarium.