Opinion » Commentaries

The Morro Bay Aquarium makes a difference

Aquariums benefit school children, families, and tourism



Morro Bay’s aquarium does not suffer from fatal problems. It is misunderstood by critics, who suffer from fatal problems in their thinking.

These critics do not engage in meaningful wildlife conservation or animal care programs. They seek to remove marine life from aquariums as part of their radical agenda to close aquariums across the country. I urge you to resist being swayed by these tactics.

The Morro Bay Aquarium connects people with marine life with the goal of inspiring visitors to take conservation action for marine life in the wild. A recent study found that visiting accredited aquariums prompts people to feel a stronger connection to marine life and to reconsider their role in conservation. This provides a benefit not only for school children and families in our community, but for the tens of thousands of tourists who visit the aquarium each year.

Fifty years ago when Dean and Bertha Tyler opened the Morro Bay Aquarium, the Embarcadero was not paved and had no sidewalks. The only draws for tourists were the beaches and dining on fresh-caught seafood. Dean combined sea lion and seal rehabilitation with fish tanks and a gift shop to raise his family and provide a tourist attraction for the town of Morro Bay. Obviously Morro Bay was pleased with the idea, as they gave him a 50-year lease.

This writer has no idea how many people have visited the aquarium since its inception, but I do know that while in Morro Bay these people need a place to sleep, eat, and fuel their vehicles.

Granted, the Morro Bay Aquarium is no Disney Sea World, San Diego Marine Park, or the Monterey Aquarium, but it meets or exceeds all the mandatory requirements set forth by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the California Fish and Game Department. The size of the Morro Bay Aquarium’s mammal enclosures are questioned by some, but if you look at the size per capita of species, you will find that they compare with the majority of aquariums across the country.

If we get rid of what tourist attractions we do have in Morro Bay, there will be no draw for tourists to visit us and fill those rooms.

“Zoos and aquariums are important economic engines,” said Jim Maddy, President and CEO of AZA (Association of Zoos and Aquariums). “Not only are aquariums deeply committed to science education and wildlife conservation, they generate jobs, attract tourism and support local communities.”

Editor’s Note: The Morro Bay Aquarium is not accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.


August R. Phillips III has lived on the Embarcadero in Morro Bay for 18 years, five of which he spent on the Board of Directors of the Morro Bay Chamber of Commerce. He was the chamber’s membership specialist and ran the Visitors’ Center. Send comments to the executive editor at rmiller@newtimesslo.com.

Add a comment