Public aquariums give visitors the opportunity to focus on sea creatures and plant life up close. The Aquarium of the Pacific’s new addition expands the focus to of fish to educate on the foul impact of mankind on ocean life. Whether or not one believes in global warming, timely topics – population growth, overfishing, pollution, and adopting more sustainable practices – are presented in the new wing.
Located in Long Beach, Calif., the Aquarium of the Pacific is the fourth-most visited public aquarium in the country, drawing about 1.7 million visitors annually. It already housed 11,000 Pacific Ocean creatures representing 500 species, including the ever-popular sharks, penguins and lorikeets. The stunning new Pacific visions wing, the facility’s first major expansion since opening over 20 years ago, showcases endangered species, explores the health of the oceans, and looks at ideas for greener (or, given the topic, bluer) practices.
“Pacific Visions is unlike any other aquarium expansion project. We are taking a unique, unconventional approach in creating a space where the focus is on the one species that is affecting all others on Earth: humans,” noted Dr. Jerry R. Schubel, the aquarium’s president and CEO.
A Whale of a Vision
The 29,000-square-foot Pacific Visions addition bears a striking resemblance to a blue whale. Its façade features over 800 panels that respond to changing light and weather conditions to mirror the effect of sunlight rippling off the ocean.
Pacific Visions opens with an orientation gallery that fuses art and science with multimedia displays and projected wall murals. The inaugural exhibit is an immersive tropical coral reef experience. There are projections of coral and plankton paired with sounds recorded in actual reefs. Artificial reefs, made partially out of recycled plastic, provide a tactile experience. In another section, visitors watch a brief video that introduces the issue of human effects on Earth’s biodiversity. it also includes prospective ways to address population growth.
The brief video serves as a preview of the 8.5-minute film presented in the Honda Pacific Visions Theatre and projected on a 130 by 32-foot screen that curves in a 180-degree arc. Hidden fans, nozzles, and seat shakers accompany the current film, creating an immersive sensory experience allowed visitors to “feel and smell” the action. The film addressed food, water, and energy changes needed to sustain future life for humans and other species.
After the video, visitors move into an interactive app-filled area to explore options and greater details about topics covered. For example, the film addresses water requirements for different crops and livestock; the interactive section lets people find out water requirements for growing alfalfa, raising cattle, and other farmed foods.
The Pacific Visions aquarium addition also has live animal exhibits to complement the content. These species illustrate how resource use has an impact:
- Delta smelt, a fish found only in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta that is near extinction largely because of water pumps and power plants in the area;
- California yellowtail, a fish that could be sustainably farmed and, added to diets, would have a lower environmental impact than beef and pork, and
- Pacific and Olympia oysters, which filter pollutants like sediment and excess nitrogen out of the water. So, establishing more oyster beds would also help protect from high tides.
The Aquarium of the Pacific is located along Shoreline Drive in Long Beach, near the Queen Mary and Convention Center. The Aquarium is open 364 days a year. (It is only closed on Christmas Day.) It normally closes at 6 p.m., but has longer hours on summer weekends.
By Dyanne Weiss
Aquarium of the Pacific visit
Pacific Visions at the Aquarium of the Pacific press materials
Photos of the new Pacific Vision wing at the Aquarium of the Pacific, Long Beach, CA ©2019 Tom Bonner, used courtesy of Aquarium of the Pacific