Skip to content

Seaside Stories

Behind the Scenes at the Seaside Aquarium With Tiffany Boothe

August 24, 2023 | by Tina Lassen

SEASIDE SPOTLIGHT: Our latest profile in a series focused on the behind-the-scenes movers who make Seaside the unique destination it is today. Previously.

 

The Seaside Aquarium has been a fixture on the Prom for as long as anyone can remember; it dates back to 1937, one of the oldest aquariums on the West Coast. It remains one of Seaside’s most popular attractions, giving visitors an up-close look at the marine life that lives in and around the nearby waves. The aquarium’s assistant manager, Tiffany Boothe, serves as an ambassador to the creatures of the sea.

“People are here on vacation — we want them to have fun,” says Boothe. “We also hope to shift their perspectives on how they view the beach.”

The aquarium’s role has evolved over the years from entertainment to education and awareness, with displays and programs that help visitors learn about and care for the coastal environment. “It’s a living ecosystem — a home for lots of plants and animals,” she says. “If we learn how to be respectful when we recreate, we can play a part in keeping our marine environment healthy.”  

Boothe, who grew up in Alaska in a family of commercial fishers, joined the aquarium in 2001 while still in high school. She stayed on as she pursued a degree in marine biology, able to continue her learning on the job. “That’s one reason I love it here,” Boothe explains. “I get to do a bit of everything.” 

Tiffany Boothe

 

A Mission of Education and Outreach

 
Interpretation is Boothe’s favorite role. Her efforts are apparent on the displays throughout the aquarium and the Discovery Cards that guests can take with them. If you’ve ever wondered why crab shells litter the beach or if fish get thirsty, the Seaside Aquarium has your answer. 

Its Beach Discovery Program is another engaging way to educate. Held Sundays in July and August, the free program welcomes passersby to stop by the beachfront tent to examine creatures in a touch tank, peer at plankton and aquatic plants under a microscope, and discuss different minerals in the sand. 

Out of the public eye, the aquarium’s staff is always busy helping marine life. Their efforts include regional rescue efforts like transporting injured wildlife to the Wildlife Center of the North Coast in Astoria. The aquarium plays an important role in the Southern Washington/Northern Oregon Marine Mammal Stranding Network, providing on-site assistance, animal transport and public education regarding marine mammals on the beach.   

 

Touch Tanks

 

Seeing What’s Undersea

 
Thirty-five glass tanks line the aquarium walls, housing rockfish and wolf eels, all kinds of sea stars, crustaceans and more. A giant Pacific octopus in a central tank waves its twisty arms at visitors; touch tanks let the curious interact with anemones, urchins and other tide pool creatures. 

Nearly all the animals housed in the aquarium are native to the Oregon Coast. Many are raised on-site. In a back room full of tanks, Boothe points out baby skates hatched from casings that washed up on the beach, and tiny week-old pipefish (relatives of seahorses) that will soon rejoin their parents in the tanks up front.  

Undoubtedly, the aquarium’s most famous residents are its 10 harbor seals, stealing the show with their balletic swimming skills and disarming cuteness. They, too, were born here. The Seaside Aquarium was one of the first aquariums to successfully breed harbor seals, and some of those delighting visitors today are sixth-generation residents. 

 

Protecting Wildlife on the Beach

 
While the aquarium-reared seals wouldn’t be able to survive in open waters, Boothe and her team are active in protecting their wild cousins along the Coast. Much of their work with the stranding network, she says, is preemptive — teaching people to stay at least 100 yards from an animal that appears stranded on the beach. (Ditto for their dogs.) 

Often, seals and sea lions that appear to be in distress may actually be out to rest, molt or give birth, explains Boothe. Mothers also leave their pups alone on the beach while they hunt. Approaching, touching or attempting to move them will do more harm than good. When in doubt — or if the animal in question is a whale, porpoise or the threatened Guadalupe fur seal — Boothe recommends you call the aquarium or the West Coast Regional Stranding Hotline immediately. 

“People are well meaning — they want to help,” she adds. “The good news is education works.” 

and so much more!

Catch the Holiday Spirit at These Merry Holiday Events

If you love the magic of the holidays, you’re in for a treat during this year’s Yuletide in Seaside events. The fun kicks off ...

The Columbia River Maritime Museum: On the Water’s Edge

A visit to the Columbia River Maritime Museum in Astoria.

Northwest Travel Magazine: Gilbert District

For more than 100 years, the Gilbert District has been a big piece of Seaside's core.

What’s New in Seaside

If you haven’t visited Seaside lately, you’re in for a treat. Several new eateries and night life venues have opened since las...

Supersize Me!

A brief look at Seaside's past sweets and treats

How to Treasure Seaside

Learn why one family uncovers more reasons to love Seaside each time they visit. After 40 years of coming to Seaside, there are st...

Say Chēz: Destiny Deras’ New Cheese Shop and Wine Bar

“Wine and cheese are ageless companions,” says American food writer M.F.K. Fisher. With the much-anticipated opening of Chēz ...

Seaside Beach Volleyball Tournament
World’s Largest Beach Volleyball Tournament

Come August, the “digs” along Seaside’s beach have nothing to do with razor clams. For the 36th year, Seaside will host the ...

Establishing Another World Record

Seaside Beach Volleyball Tournament establishes yet another record during stellar event.

Oregon Coast: Lodgings with a Tale to Tell

Historic coastal inn in Seaside, Oregon

A group of women prepare to learn surfing in Oswald West State Park. Photo by Justin Bailie.
New Year, New Adventures

Instead of starting the new year by committing to breaking bad habits — and then forgetting that you even made the resolution ...

The Pacific Pier

A look at the old Pacific Pier in Seaside, Oregon

Summer’s Great, but There’s Nothing Else like Winter in Seaside

When you imagine a classic beach town, you probably picture something similar to Seaside, Oregon. Our town of 6,700 sits less than...

The Roaring Twenties on Broadway

The roaring twenties was an exciting era in Seaside.

Celebrating the Moms in Our Life

Honoring motherhood through a photo on the beach

Seaside Lifeguards: A Fond Seasonal Farewell

Can you believe it’s almost Labor Day Weekend? Don’t fret!  We’re still probably in for some dynamic weather throughout Sep...

Pocket Garden Walking Tour

When you walk down Broadway Street, you notice the patches of flowers planted along the sidewalk — all bursting with color, no m...

How To Surf Seaside

Surfing in Oregon? Yes! The North Coast has some of the best breaks in the Pacific Northwest. And yes, the ocean is a bit nippy, b...