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December 5, 2022

Whale of a time

Contributed Photo

GREENFIELD — Monterey Fisherman’s Wharf Association has partnered with the Greenfield Community Science Workshop to provide funding that will cover the transportation costs for dozens of local families to attend this weekend’s Whalefest on the coast.

A total of 60 students from the Greenfield after-school program and their parents will travel to Monterey on Saturday for the Eighth Annual Whalefest Monterey at Old Fisherman’s Wharf, a two-day symposium with lectures and activities related to ocean and marine life conservation.

The free educational event, sponsored by the Fisherman’s Wharf Association, also celebrates the migration of gray whales and benefits local and national marine organizations that educate, inspire and empower the public to protect the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary.

According to Mary Alice Cerrito Fettis, chairwoman of Whalefest Monterey, the partnership with Greenfield Community Science Workshop developed through a recommendation from Barbara Meister of the Monterey Bay Aquarium, which has worked with the workshop since 2011 to provide free transportation and admission to the aquarium for thousands of local families.

The Fisherman’s Wharf Association was interested in expanding access to Whalefest this year to residents along the Highway 101 corridor, including those living in South County, and asked Meister for a list of organizations that would benefit the most from this opportunity.

Cerrito Fettis said fewer than 2 percent of Whalefest visitors come from south of Salinas.

“We reached out to the aquarium to request the names of some organizations where we could best place our funds that we had raised to bring underserved youth or students who had little opportunity to enjoy the marine experience,” she explained.

Greenfield Community Science Workshop was one of the organizations on Meister’s list.

“We jumped on the opportunity,” said Jose Sanchez, program coordinator for the workshop. “This is the first time the Greenfield Community Science Workshop will be taking youth and families to Whalefest — and to my knowledge, we are the first South County organization attending this event.”

Thousands of visitors are expected to attend this year’s Whalefest to learn about maritime environment and the annual whale migration, with whale watchers coming from around the world to view hundreds of whales, orcas, dolphins and pelicans in the Monterey Bay.

Along with live music, the event will feature interactive displays — such as a 43-foot inflatable model of a humpback whale — and educational activities presented by local organizations connected to the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. Visitors can also participate in beach and bike path cleanups.

“Exposing students to new ideas and activities is always a priority for us here at the Greenfield Community Science Workshop, and the 2018 Whalefest will offer students the chance to participate and witness activities like Gyotaku, the Japanese art of stenciling fish, and Scrimshaw, the antique art of carving created by Basque and Portuguese whalers,” Sanchez said. “These activities will provide yet another avenue — art, in this case — for students to take interest in the ocean.”

In addition to free transportation, the families attending the symposium from Greenfield will also receive clam chowder bowls as well as a complimentary Whalefest Monterey T-shirt.

“We are hoping these families will be inspired to save our ocean in any way they can, from reduction of disposable plastic use to looking for avenues to implement a change in culture or helping to create laws for a sustainable ocean,” Cerrito Fettis said.

Sanchez hopes the students attending the event will realize the ocean’s importance and the impact it has on the world in such areas as food, science, jobs, health and culture.

“What’s important for us here at the Greenfield Community Science Workshop is for students to understand that we are all connected to the ocean in very real ways, and therefore have a responsibility and interest to care for it,” he said.