INTO THE OCEAN
Saturday’s World Oceans Day Festival on Stearns Wharf at the Sea Center dazzled children and adults alike with activities, giveaways and, of course, various marine animals.
Attendants petted starfish, sea urchins and sea cucumbers. Those brave enough even touched small sharks that wiggled around in their tanks.
Lauren Kapphahn attended with her two sons. Ms. Kapphahn, whose undergraduate background is in marine biology, previously worked at the Sea Center. Currently, she works as a mapper for Apple, but she can’t seem to stay away from the fishies. One of them, a finescale triggerfish, has been named Charlie by her and Big Lip by her younger son.
When the News-Press encountered Ms. Kapphahn she was greeting the fish in the tank with the warmth of encountering old friends. Ms. Kapphahn described the Sea Center as “this calming place” that holds a sort of demure mystery.
Dr. Gretchen Hofmann, who has been teaching at UCSB for about two decades, told the News-Press that the festival was precisely about connecting with the ocean and its animals as Ms. Kapphahn is doing.
The festival, according to Dr. Hofmann, is a collaboration effort between the Sea Center and UCSB, along with other organizations and individuals who are working to improve the health of the ocean. For example, the U.S. Coast Guard was there to educate attendees about water pollution. Casey Seminavage, who has been a coast guard for 10 years, engaged with folks to talk about what’s legal and what’s not in lakes, rivers and bays. The Santa Barbara chapter of Surfrider Foundation was also there to chat about coastal preservation and beach access.
Dr. Hofmann said she and her team hoped attendants took the opportunity to network and establish contacts to take care of the beaches and oceans. As a second generation climate scientist, Dr. Hofmann spoke about World Oceans Day with passion. This passion motivated her to use her research funds to provide free admission of the Sea Center for attendants of the festival.
The first festival was held five years ago, according to Dr. Hofmann. While planning for the first festival, she asked the Sea Center how much it would cost to open up the Sea Center for festival attendants. The reply was $2,000, and Dr. Hofmann happily struck the deal.
Planning for next year’s World Oceans Day Festival has already begun, said Dr. Kapphahn. Those who cannot wait until then can check out Portal to the Planet, a program run by the Sea Center. Sea Center Program Coordinator Edward Sweeney said the program is free and runs seasonally on the weekends.