SEATTLE — The underwater creatures in "Honu by the Sea" are more than just cute costumes. The characters are part of an important performance that ran at the Seattle Aquarium during an international tour.
"I'll have kids coming up to us after the show saying, 'I'm going to do my part. I'm going to take care of our trash. I love the ocean. I'm going to be a guardian of the sea," explained Nickey Enos, who plays Honu, which means Hawaiian green sea turtle.
The musical has toured all over the world and performed at the Seattle Aquarium on Monday to raise awareness about an issue that's very important to staff: research focused on the health of coral reefs off the coast of Hawaii.
"We survey them with underwater video. We are scuba diving with a research camera and go to the same spot every time, start at the same point, stop at the same point," explained Aquarium Curator of Conservation Research Shawn Larson. "Then we bring that video back here to Seattle and put it on a big screen TV. Then we can slow down the video, we can zoom in, and we are counting all the fish we see on the video."
Larson and her team are headed to Hawaii next week to continue the survey.
"So this is really an effort to figure out what is happening in the reef systems off the northwest corner of Hawaii to determine: are the fish increasing or are they decreasing or are they staying the same?" she said.
The hope is to learn more about reef health and inspire others to care, especially children.
"They are quick learners. They pay attention. They hear it," said Honu by the Sea writer Johnson Enos. "They tell their parents. They say, 'Hey it's time for me to clean my room now.' Sometimes that happens. Not all the time."