Aquarium of the Bay, San Francisco, CA

Sharks as seen from inside an underwater tunnel. Aquarium of the Bay, San Francisco, CA.
One of the clear tunnels in the Aquarium of the Bay, San Francisco.

The Aquarium of the Bay is located next to Pier 39 on the Embarcadero, just a short walk from Fisherman’s Wharf. The aquarium is a 50,000 square foot facility dedicated to the conservation of San Francisco Bay’s unique ecosystems and diverse populations of aquatic marine life. They have roughly 600,000 visitors each year and provide free educational opportunities to over 50,000 San Francisco school children.

The facility is comprised of 300 feet of clear acrylic tunnels holding more than 700,000 gallons of filtered bay salt water. The aquarium also houses over 20,000 aquatic animals including sharks, bat rays and skates. There are many different exhibits to explore while visiting the Aquarium of the Bay including three touch pools where the visitor can explore bay marine life from a personal perspective.

The Aquarium of the Bay provides the visitor an opportunity to explore three different environments that display marine life under the San Francisco Bay. The first exhibit is Discover the Bay which provides an introduction to the unique ecosystems that make the bay their home. In these eight exhibits a visitor can view over 1,000 aquatic animals. Under the Bay is the second exhibit on the tour and includes two clear tunnels that the visitor can walk beneath while viewing over 20,000 marine animals. Touch the Bay is the last stop on the aquarium tour which provides the visitor a chance to touch marine animals as well as local and exotic land animals, participate in hands-on experiments and many other fun activities.

The aquarium’s mission is to create experiences that inspire conservation of the San Francisco Bay and all marine environments. There are many steps taken to adhere to this mission including research, animal enrichment, Green Business Certification, membership with the San Francisco Seafood Watch Alliance and many conservation events and activities. Along with the aquarium’s partners their research and conservation efforts are creating a healthier marine habitat within the aquarium as well as in the wild. A few of their efforts include educating the public about sustainable seafood while partnering with the San Francisco Seafood Watch Alliance, adhering to Green Business Certification by operating in an environmentally responsible way and creating behavioral enrichment programs for the aquarium’s captive animals.

One research project the Aquarium of the Bay’s staff has been involved with is the ‘Sevengill Shark Tagging Project in San Francisco Bay‘. The Sevengill Shark lives and reproduces in San Francisco Bay, but very little is known about their behavior and ecology. Aquarium staff working with UC Davis attached transmitters to the sharks to track and detect movement of the animals in the bay. The researchers are hopeful that the information gathered during this project will provide information regarding the Sevengill’s movements and activities as well as a long-term perspective of the sharks’ life patterns and basic ecology. This is just one of the many research projects sponsored by the Aquarium of the Bay and demonstrates the aquarium’s commitment to education, the preservation of animals and the conservation of the San Francisco Bay.

The Aquarium of the Bay’s educational programs consist of inquiry-based, hands-on learning experiences that include activities, games and a guided tour. There are also classroom programs, self-guided tours, aquarium sleepovers and birthday parties. The aquarium also provides local teachers with educational resources such as classroom activity guides and background information about the ecology and marine life of the San Francisco Bay. The Aquarium of the Bay is dedicated to the education of its visitors and the conservation of all marine habitats.