by Xinya Calhoun
This past September marked my first time volunteering for the Back to the Sea Society. It also marked the first ever public Animal Release Party - and what a turnout! So many families and friends came out to the beach at Point Pleasant Park to give our sea creatures some love and say goodbye to them one last time. It was an amazing experience that I’m sure will live on in everyone’s memories for years to come!
Tons of families and friends came to Point Pleasant Park for the first Animal Release Party!
All Photo Credits: Julie Balasalle
As the Touch Tank Hut season ends each year, the animals have to say farewell to their summer home and return to the ocean. In 2021, we decided to give them an event that everyone could celebrate! Magali (Back to the Sea's Executive Director) and I spent almost an hour carefully packing up all the animals from the 4 tanks - crabs, sea stars, snails, anemones, you name it! We moved them from the tanks into bags of water and then into coolers so they stayed cool and comfy during the trip from the Touch Tank Hut to Point Pleasant Park.
Our awesome staff and volunteers getting ready for the party!
At the beach, we met with other Back to the Sea staff and volunteers. We had lots to do to set up, so it was great to have so many helping hands. Everyone pitched in to unpack, prepare the shell painting station, and get the animals ready to be handed out. Once people began to arrive, the party officially started!
Each participant filled their reusable container with some water from the beach, and then lined up to get some animals! When an animal was chosen to be released, we made a note of it - it was important to keep track of each animal to make sure they all safely got to the ocean. Participants got to touch and hold the animals, and often got to learn some fun facts about them! Then the animals were put in their container and carried to the ocean for the participant to say a final goodbye and release them into the water. Though most of our species were intertidal and were content to be set free in the shallows directly by our participants, there were some animals (our moon snail Otis, for example) who needed to go a bit deeper to be happy. We had two brave snorkelers and an amazing diver swimming in the chilly waters to help make sure those species got far enough away from shore.
A family getting their first animal - a sea star!
We had so many animals to go around that many participants came back after letting their first one go so they could help release even more! Many kids also enjoyed the oyster shell painting station.
Releasing animals back into the water!
This animal release party is unlike anything I’d ever done before. It was hours of learning, sharing, and experiencing new things about marine animals while having lots of fun at the beach. I loved every second of it, and I hope that every visitor had as much fun as I did!