Audubon Aquarium makes room for giant sculptures made from plastic pollution

Audubon Aquarium of the Americas is announcing its latest conservation initiative: “Washed Ashore: Art to Save the Sea.’’

This limited-time special exhibition features larger-than-life aquatic animal sculptures crafted from plastic trash collected from beaches. It’s designed to teach people about the threat that plastic pollution poses for the ecosystems of the world’s oceans and waterways.

Made entirely of debris removed from Pacific Coast beaches, the “Washed Ashore’’ traveling exhibit offers a visual reality of the proliferation of pollution in the world’s waterways through marine animal representations that use thousands of pieces of plastic in every color of the rainbow.

Examples include sculptures of a 10-foot Sea Jelly, a 10-foot-long leaping Marlin named “Flash,” a 1,500-pound Great White Shark named “Greta” and 12 other large aquatic animals. As part of the exhibit, Sebastian James the Tufted Puffin and SeeMore the Sea Lion Pup will be on display at Audubon Zoo.

“Plastics have entered into all marine habitats and every level of the ocean food chain,’’ said Rich Toth, Audubon Aquarium of the Americas managing director.

‘’Whales, fish, zooplankton and numerous other animals are eating our trash. Approximately 80 percent of marine debris comes from land-based sources – streets to streams to rivers to oceans.’’

Toth said the Washed Ashore artworks can act as a powerful messenger.

“As our guests look closely at these sea life creations,’’ he said, “we hope that they are motivated to learn more about the tragic issue of marine debris in a way they can embrace. At Audubon, we’ve committed to reducing single-use plastics by phasing out plastic straws from concessions and plastic bags from gift shops – more than 200,000 individual pieces of single-use plastics since 2017.’’

Since the project began, more than 10,000 volunteers have participated in the project, collecting, washing and hand stitching parts of sculptures. More than 42,000 pounds of plastic pollution have been collected from over 300 miles of beaches and turned into more than 70 sculptures that tour the country.

The exhibit will be included with a general admission ticket to the Aquarium of the Americas. Sculptures will be placed throughout the Aquarium through April 30, 2019.