Sea Matters at the Monterey Bay Aquarium

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Sea otter with flipper tags

Sea otter with flipper tags

Discover threatened sea otters, sharks and other creatures at Monterey Bay Aquarium.

When Rosa began climbing into kayaks and interacting with divers, it signaled to biologists who had tracked her for most of her life that it was time for her to return to the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

Several years earlier, aquarium staff had saved the southern sea otter’s life when she was found abandoned as a pup along the coast of Santa Cruz County in 1999. She spent seven months with a surrogate mother otter living behind-the-scenes at the aquarium, learning how to break open crabs and groom herself. To avoid otters like Rosa forming relationships with humans, the aquarium Sea Otter Program staff concealed their bodies and faces, wearing Darth Vader-like masks and capes. After learning the skills she needed to survive on her own, Rosa was released back into the wild where she thrived for two years in open waters.

While Rosa was brought back to the aquarium and deemed non-releasable by federal wildlife officials because of her interactions with humans, she has played a critical role in boosting the threatened sea otter population. As a surrogate mother to abandoned or stranded sea otter pups, she has raised more pups than any other living surrogate otter in the world. And as one of just over 3,000 southern sea otters left in the world, Rosa and her mothering instincts are vital to ensure California’s sea otter population continues to thrive.

Visit Rosa and her white freckles, along with other charismatic southern sea otters at the world-class Monterey Bay Aquarium, where more than 800 sea otters have come through the aquarium's Sea Otter Program. During the 15-minute feeding program, you can watch a handful of resident sea otters like Rosa groom, dive and float on their backs, using their tummies as tables.

Visitors watching a SCUBA diver in the Kelp Forest exhibit at the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

Visitors watching a SCUBA diver in the Kelp Forest exhibit at the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

But don’t miss the aquarium's other attractions like the Kelp Forest feeding where divers hand-feed sharks. Or the Open Sea feeding where you'll stand in front of one of the world’s largest windows to learn more about the dining habits of the marine life and the important role humans play in ensuring the ocean's health.

In this intimate glimpse into life in the cold waters of the Monterey Bay, you’ll realize how fragile the ocean is and why each of us plays a vital role in ensuring the creatures we see now will be around decades from now.

“We can all make a difference,” says Angela Hains, the aquarium’s public relations manager. “There are so many stories of hope.”

Tip: Download the aquarium's free app before you arrive to get the most out of your visit. 

For more information:

Monterey Bay Aquarium
(831) 648-4800
886 Cannery Row, Monterey, CA 93940

Central Coast Tourism