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Oceans need our protection, author-explorer tells Utahns

Aquarium schedules lectures on helping sea creatures survive

A white-blotched river stingray hovers on the bottom of a tank at the Living Planet Aquarium in Sandy. The fresh-water stingray is one of the new creatures on display.
A white-blotched river stingray hovers on the bottom of a tank at the Living Planet Aquarium in Sandy. The fresh-water stingray is one of the new creatures on display.
Stuart Johnson, Deseret News

SANDY — You've got to go blue, before you can go green. Ocean blue, that is.

That is the message that Sylvia Earle, one of the world's leading experts in ocean conservation, brings to Utah.

"The oceans are our life support system," she said speaking at The Living Planet Aquarium on Thursday. The seas provide 70 percent of the world's oxygen, influence weather patterns and more.

"It doesn't matter where on the planet you are, you breathe," Earle said.

Although more than 500 miles away from oceans, Utahns still need to care about them, she said, adding it should be with urgency because 90 percent of some shark populations are already gone.

"This may be the last generation to be able to do something about it (ocean conservation)," she said. "Our lives are at risk," with the oceans out of balance.

Until the 1960s, oceans were believed to be limitless, Earl said. A problem now is that fish aren't treated as wildlife, but simply as limitless food.

"These are cool dudes," she said point to an aquarium full of fish. "They all have personality … Fish have faces and every one is different."

Earle doesn't advocate eating a lot of fish because she believes mercury and chemicals in fish are harmful for humans and outweigh any other benefits from eating them. "People are so complacent about fish," she said.

Despite some bleakness, she said, "It's still in our capacity to turn things around."

Earle is an oceanographer, explorer, author, and lecturer who currently works at the National Geographic Society. Emanating a beacon of ocean conservation enthusiasm, she believes she has a mission to spread her message.

Another ocean expert, Duane Silverstein, executive director of Seacology, a nonprofit organization dedicated to saving endangered species, habitats and cultures of islands throughout the world, is also in Utah this week.

The two will speak at a public lecture, "Sustainable Seas: The Vision and the Reality" on Friday, 7 p.m., at the Living Planet Aquarium, 725 E. 10600 South.

Tickets to that event are $25 for general admission and $50 for VIP reception. All proceeds benefit the nonprofit groups, Seacology and the Living Planet Aquarium.

The Living Planet Aquarium is also finishing work on a 7,000-square-foot exhibit, "Journey to South America," tentatively scheduled to open Feb. 28. It showcases Utah's lake and stream ecosystems and South Pacific tropical coral reef habitats in two galleries.

The aquarium is open Sunday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Admission is $8 for adults, $7 for seniors, students and military personnel, $6 for children ages 3 to 17 and free for children 2 and under. The first Monday of every month the aquarium offers half-priced family night from 4 to 6 p.m. Visitors can purchase annual memberships for $15 for each adult and $9 for each child.

For more information, call 355-3474 or visit www.thelivingplanet.com.

E-mail: lynn@desnews.com