Heal the Bay’s Santa Monica Pier Aquarium will hold the second annual Underwater Parks Day from 12:30 to 5 p.m. Saturday, January 16th, at the marine science center, 1600 Ocean Front Walk, Santa Monica.

Interactive displays at the aquarium, which explain the importance of establishing undersea parks called Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), complement the exhibits of more than 100 local marine species permanently displayed at the center.

Underwater Parks Day will include two presentations: the first at 1 p.m. will review the ongoing MPA process in Southern California, and at 3 p.m. a second discussion will focus on the benefits of MPAs to coral reefs in Belize. The announcement of the three winners of an underwater photography contest is slated for 2 p.m., and contestants’ work will be on display as well.

Daylong activities for visitors include a scavenger hunt and a “sustainable seafood station,” where the public can learn how to help protect the ocean and its resources by making sustainable choices in seafood selections at markets and restaurants.

Many local residents, marine biologists, divers, ocean conservationists and fishermen support the creation of marine protected areas along the Southern California coast because they agree that the areas are a critical tool in replenishing the fish populations and restoring the health of coastal waters.

Santa Monica Pier Aquarium staff are collaborating with other aquariums and marine science centers from as far north as Santa Barbara and as far south as La Jolla to present engaging exhibits, activities and materials about marine protected areas to be shared with visitors on Underwater Parks Day.

“Discussing common ocean education and literacy goals around a table with so many colleagues that I admire and have respected during my career is a great honor and a lot of fun,” said Vicki Wawerchak, director of the Santa Monica Pier Aquarium.

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