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SEASIDE AQUARIUM

FEED THE SEALS





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About the Seaside Aquarium


When the aquarium was founded in 1937, the goal was mostly to entertain the public. The dark interior was meant to create the feeling of swimming through an ocean cave at a time when respiration-aided diving was virtually unknown.

In the past several years, the focus has shifted to include education and community involvement as well as entertainment. We have reached beyond the walls of the actual building to participate in local events and projects geared toward a better understanding and appreciation of the North Coast marine environment.

In 1995, we became leaders in the regional Marine Mammal Stranding Network. In the next few years we added an Interpretive Center and helped start Seaside’s Watershed Estuary Beach Discovery Program. We have partnered with local businesses, non-profit organizations, and the City of Seaside to inform both visitors and local communities about beach safety, tides, different coastal habitats, and the animals who live there.

Family at the Touch Tank


An empty belly, a full mouth...


There are the usual marine mammal calls a stranded baby seal, a dead elephant seal, a cranky sea lion on the beach and then there are the unusual ones. In the almost fifteen years Aquarium staff have been responding to Marine Mammal Stranding Network calls, we have had many unusual occurrences. There was the sea lion stopping traffic on a road in Southern Washington (it ran into the forest before it was eventually caged and returned to the water), and the Baird’s Beaked Whale that washed ashore and died in front of the Turnaround in Seaside during the Harbor Porpoise with Northern Shad stuck in mouth. annual volleyball tournament. We have helped a beaver stranded on a bar in the surf at the cove (technically not a marine mammal, but somehow it was in our purview) and green and leatherback sea turtles washed ashore and suffering from hypothermia. We have examined dead gray whales, humpback whales, sperm whales, dolphins, elephant seals, and sea lions.

It is not that unusual for a harbor porpoise to wash up dead on the beach; it is more unusual for the porpoise to have starved with a fish in its mouth. Harbor porpoises are slightly smaller than other porpoises (they grow to 6 feet) and eat small fish like herring and smelt. Occasionally a harbor porpoise will eat a shad, a fish similar to herring but slightly wider. Shad are built with very bony dorsal (back) and ventral (belly) fins that are similar to porcupine needles they are smooth when rubbed one way but sharp when rubbed another. If a harbor porpoise starts to swallow a shad that is too large, it will try to spit it back out, and the shad’s fins will get caught in the porpoise’s throat. Eventually the fins pierce the porpoise’s esophagus, leaving the fish irreparably lodged.

Over the years, aquarium staff have discovered three harbor porpoises that have died in this manner. The most recent incident was this spring.


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Seaside Aquarium, 200 North Prom, Seaside, Oregon 97138 Tel: (503) 738-6211.