Aquariums have become a normal part of society, in that most of us have visited one at some point or other. The question is do they work as a good educational tool for the ocean and its creatures and do they encourage conservation? What do people take away from a visit and are aquarium’s a positive experience? Here in the UK they are a way for us all to engage with a range of tropical creatures that we might otherwise not be exposed too but does that encourage a more positive and active drive to care for them in the natural World?
The Scuba News UK visited the London Aquarium for a closer look at one of the UK’s biggest underwater facilities and were warmly welcomed.
The aquarium strongly believes that an initial interaction with the underwater environment can spark a passion and interest and therefore a determination to protect the World’s oceans. ‘By sharing the wonder and beauty of our oceans, we hope people will learn to love them as much as we do. SEA LIFE London Aquarium allows visitors to experience the ocean’s hidden marvels, and our expert staff are dedicated to, and passionate about conservation.’
This link between visiting a sea life centre and the leap to actually exploring it yourself is a concept I can very much resonate with. As a child on school trips, sea life centres always blew my mind. To me, it was like looking into another world, a brief glimpse and it made me want to find out more.
One visitor I spoke with said, ‘I come here every time I come to London. I think it is a fantastic thing to do when you are in the city for an escape. It is relaxing and therapeutic. The calm music and dim lights make it a very sensory experience and the interaction with so many different types of marine life developed my natural interest in sealife and I think it is doing the same for my son, who loves coming here too.’
I spoke with staff about the ‘SEA LIFE Trust’, a fantastic charity dedicated to the conservation of marine wildlife and the environment. ‘Through SEA LIFE, the Trust can reach a huge audience with the key messages about its areas of focus: marine protected areas, sustainable seafood, plastic pollution, and improved protection for sharks, seahorses, turtles and marine mammals. Last year we raised over £300,000 globally to support the Trust’s projects and partner organisations, protecting sharks, rays, turtles, whales, dolphins, seahorses, otters, penguins and many other creatures.’
Aquarists give talks and deliver information to visitors at feeding times, which allow people to learn about the inhabitants and learn some quirky facts, for example, ‘Did you know that stingrays are related to sharks? How about the fact that the aquarium holds over 2 million gallons of water?’
The fear that some people hold about the sea’s unusual creatures can also be dismissed through interaction. Shannon Harken, 10, from Worthing said ‘I love jellyfish. Some people think that they will all kill you but they are not really bad at all, some don’t even sting you! I used to be scared of them when I was little but now I look for them at the beach when we go on holiday and sometimes I find them. They look a bit like aliens but pretty colours.’
There is no doubt that an aquarium is a fun, educational tool for learning. The London aquarium is full of regularly scheduled activities, including touch pool sessions and talks, it is full of knowledgeable staff that surround the exhibits answering questions and offering observations to visitors and it encourages engagement and offers people the opportunity to get involved through work experience. It is a beautiful center and is buzzing with a love of the ocean and is a total insight into what lies beneath.
For more information visit their Website and plan your visit.