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Year in Review

The Aquarium in 2018

Frank Colonna, Jerry Schubel, and Mayor Robert Garcia stand in front of the Aquarium with the Pacific Visions wing in the background. - popup
Frank Colonna, board chair, San Gabriel and Lower Los Angeles Rivers and Mountains Conservancy; Jerry Schubel, Aquarium of the Pacific president and CEO; and Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia stand in front of the Aquarium with the Pacific Visions wing in the background.

Year in Review

December 5, 2018

Celebrating Twenty Years

In 2018 the Aquarium celebrated its 20th Anniversary, completed milestones in the construction of Pacific Visions, hosted forums on aquaculture and climate change, and conducted important conservation work locally and internationally. It also offered two Aquatic Academy courses: Redrawing the Map of the World’s Coastlines and How Will We Feed an Additional 2 to 2.5 Billion People by 2100? Here is a look back at some of the top happenings at the Aquarium this year.


1. The Aquarium celebrated its 20th Anniversary.

The celebration included special programs, events, and contests highlighting our fascinating history and bold future. The Aquarium’s original charter animals were highlighted and new animals were featured, including Kaya the baby harbor seal and the new Tentacles and Ink exhibit.

2018 Pacific Islander Festival participants with 20th Anniversary signs and flags
Performers in the Aquarium's 2018 Pacific Islander Festival hold signs and flags in honor of the Aquarium's 20th Anniversary on stage in front of the Honda Blue Cavern exhibit.
Crew on a lift installs glass panel in Pacific Visions facade while officials watch
A construction crew installs the last exterior glass panel in the Pacific Visions facade while Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia, Councilmember Jeannine Pearce, and Aquarium Board Director Doug Otto watch from a nearby lift.

2. Construction on the exterior of the new Pacific Visions wing was completed.

A topping off ceremony for the new wing was held in February, and the façade’s final glass panel was installed in October.

3. Seafood for the Future released a new video series called Ocean to Table.

Ocean to Table: Stories of Food, Farming, and Conservation showcases responsible marine aquaculture farms around the U.S., interviews with farmers, and seafood recipes to educate the public about responsible aquaculture production. The project also included the release of an app with simple activities and games allowing users to learn more about aquaculture and its environmental impact in comparison to agriculture.

table set up take 1
Aviculturist Sara Mandel with a penguin chick at the Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds
Aviculturist Sara Mandel is seated wearing green waders holding a penguin chick during a feeding at the Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds.

4. Conservation projects in 2018 included the launch of a new citizen science website tracking giant sea bass and staff members who traveled to Saipan and South Africa to work with endangered birds.

The Aquarium joined with scientists from the University of California, Santa Barbara, to launch a new website that uses divers’ and snorkelers’ photos of giant sea bass to help track these endangered fish. Assistant Curator Rob Mortensen traveled to Saipan to work with the island’s endangered birds, Mammalogist Katie Finch worked with piping plovers in the Great Lakes region, and Aviculturist Sara Mandel helped rescue and rehabilitate African penguins in South Africa.

5. The Aquarium debuted two new Science on a Sphere shows.

We Are All Related: The Dispersal of Humans Across the World traces human history from our species’ origins in Africa 300,000 years ago to our current population of 7.5 billion and reflects on humans’ growing impact on the environment with the hope for creating a more sustainable future for generations to come. #TeamOcean, developed by XPrize’s Ocean Initiative in consultation with experts at the Aquarium, addresses some major problems affecting the ocean, including overfishing and plastic pollution, and highlights how humans have only explored 15 percent of the ocean floor.

Still image from TeamOcean show by Xprize
A still from the #TeamOcean Science on a Sphere show created by XPrize in partnership with the Aquarium shows illustrations of marine life holding signs that read, Clean, Abundant, Healthy.
Haben Girma receives Aquarium's Heritage Award at 2018 Festival of Human Abilities from Kathie Nirschl
Haben Girma was presented with the Aquarium's Heritage Award at the 2018 Festival of Human Abilities. Girma (left) is pictured here with Kathie Nirschl, Aquarium vice president of human resources, holding the framed plaque in front of the Honda Blue Cavern exhibit.

6. The Aquarium hosted more than forty lectures in its Guest Speaker Series.

Speakers in 2018 included Haben Girma, an advocate for equal opportunities for people with disabilities and the first Deafblind person to graduate from Harvard Law School; JD Talasek, the director of Cultural Programs of the National Academy of Sciences; and Tapan Pathak, a specialist in climate adaptation in agriculture at the University of California, Merced. The Aquarium also presented lectures on the Aquarium’s history and achievements in celebration of its 20th Anniversary.

7. Several art exhibits were displayed at the Aquarium in 2018, including images by a National Geographic photographer and artwork celebrating the Aquarium’s 20th Anniversary.

The Aquarium displayed art exhibits throughout the summer celebrating its 20th Anniversary, including illustrations by Brian Kesinger, the Official Artist of the 20th Anniversary; an art quilt featuring the Aquarium’s animals created by Leah Young; and winning artwork in the 20th Anniversary art contest presented by JetBlue. Other art exhibits in 2018 included Aquaculture by National Geographic photographer Brian Skerry, artwork by Andrés Pruna and Truong Buu Giam, and artwork from the Schmidt Ocean Institute’s Artist-at-Sea program.

A young man in a canoe fishes near a fish farm at sunset.
A young Panamanian hand lines for wild fish that gather near the sub-surface structure of a fish farm's inshore nursery cages. © Brian Skerry
Frank Roberts of Lady's Island Oyster Inc. speaks on a panel during the Aquarium's 2018 aquaculture forum.
Frank Roberts of Lady's Island Oyster Inc. seated on stage at the Aquarium's 2018 aquaculture forum speaks on issues affecting farmers.

8. The Aquarium’s Seafood for the Future program and American Honda co-hosted a forum on developing a communications strategy to support responsible marine aquaculture in the U.S.

On October 4 and 5 the Aquarium gathered farmers, chefs, communications experts, regulators, educators, scientists, and other stakeholders to develop a strategy for communicating accurate, engaging, and cohesive information about responsible marine aquaculture to the public.

9. New animals in 2018 included sea lions, eagle rays, several sharks, cephalopods, and new animals born at the Aquarium, including a tufted puffin chick, three Magellanic penguins, black-necked stilts, and Kaya the baby harbor seal.

The Aquarium welcomed new sea lions Chase and Cain in 2018, as well as the birth of Kaya the harbor seal. Species on view at the Aquarium for the first time included eagle rays, a scalloped hammerhead shark, grey smooth-hound sharks, and two grey reef sharks. New animals in the Tentacles and Ink exhibit installed as part of the 20th Anniversary included bigfin reef squid, a day octopus, and golden cuttlefish. Birds hatched at the Aquarium this year include a tufted puffin chick, three black-necked stilt chicks, and three penguins, Dee, Chloe, and Wally.

Kaya the harbor seal pup chewing on a fish grasped between her front flippers
Kaya the harbor seal pup grasps a fish in her front flippers to chew on it as she floats in her nursery pool. Robin Riggs
Green sea turtle in transport kennel before release Sept. 2018

10. The Aquarium received several sea turtles for rehabilitation by its veterinary staff in 2018.

The Aquarium has rehabilitated and released several sea turtles in recent years. In 2018 this included Jelly, a 21-inch-long juvenile that was rescued by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) with an injury from a fishing hook in Morro Bay. After removing the hook, the Aquarium’s staff released Jelly in the San Gabriel River.

11. The Aquarium joined the #FirstStep campaign encouraging people to avoid using plastic straws.

The Aquarium joined twenty-one other aquariums across the country in launching the #FirstStep campaign to reduce single-use plastic in the ocean starting with plastic straws. The aquariums are asking businesses, individuals, and cities to commit to cutting back on plastic straws to protect marine life.

first step sea turtle