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Sun Herald Article by Pam Firmin - October 17, 2009
Learning The Life Aquatic

SunHeraldSea Explorers to learn basic skills for coastal fun

The Institute for Marine Mammal Studies is calling water lovers of all ages to join a Sea Explorer Club and learn some of the basics for coastal living: snorkeling, aquarium-making or how to fish, crab and throw a cast net.

Now that Moby Solangi, who ran Marine Life for 25 years before Hurricane Katrina, has his $7 million marine mammal institute up and running, he wants people to care.

The strategy is to teach these marine-oriented pastimes to the new club — which starts Saturday. Members can be any age, from 8 to 80 with leeway on both ends. It’s for anybody and everybody, he said, for people new to the area as well as longtimers who just never got around to learning some things.

“If you make education fun, people will retain it,” Solangi said. “It doesn’t have to be just for children. (The club) is a great family activity.

“If you love something, you’ll protect it,” he said of dolphins and the environment, which are the basis for the non-profit Institute of Marine Mammal Studies that Solangi founded and heads. “What happens to (dolphins) is what ultimately is going to happen to us. By monitoring them, we are protecting our way of life, the environment. We do this by teaching people, by getting them fond of the environment.”

Seven youngsters on a recent test run seemed to like the Sea Explorers environment a lot. Swapping pencils for fishing poles for the morning, the crew from Quarles Elementary in Long Beach and North Bay in Biloxi, had a chance to bait hooks, throw out fishing lines, empty a crab trap and toss a cast net — for starters.

The youngest and the smallest of them, Erin Nanney, 6, of Biloxi, was the first to try throwing the cast net, and she got it well out into the water.

“It was fun,” she said afterward. “I never tried it before, but now I did.”

In club lingo, this activity is titled “All About Fish” and will last about two hours, scheduled for Nov. 7 at $25 per person. Its focus includes fishing skills, crab traps and what to put in a tackle box. Fish anatomy will be covered, also, as part of an art project called Gyotaku, the Japanese art of fish painting, and everyone will make their own souvenir T-shirt using the process.

After fishing, the children helped set up some fresh water aquariums, which is another two-hour club activity titled “Aquarium 101,” ($35 per person) scheduled Dec. 5. Here, people learn to build a freshwater aquarium, which fish can get along together, test water quality, including how much everything costs.

If you can swim you can snorkel, demonstrated Koby Quave, 11, who swam snorkeling the length of the pool and afterward said matter-of-factly that he had never done it before.

Although this activity lets participants learn to snorkel on-site, gear provided, it is called “Secrets of Scuba” ($50 per person) and provides a scuba demonstration and a chance for people to find out more about diving, It’s the first in the Sea Explorer series and will be held Saturday, Oct. 24.

By: Pam Firmin

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