Fisherman's Wharf will become a gathering place Saturday and Sunday for an eclectic menagerie of marine researchers, scientists, advocates and ocean lovers at the Monterey Whalefest, a diverse celebration of the undersea world that is free to the public.

The 2012 event will treat festival-goers to a wide variety of exhibits, films, lectures and panel discussions, demonstrations, historical tours, environmental education, music and many other attractions, from 9a.m. to 5p.m. both days.

"We've attempted to bring together all of the groups, organizations, institutions and individuals who affect the health of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, and funnel all of their information back to the general public in an interesting and meaningful way," said Whalefest chair Mary Alice Fettis. "We want people who come to the festival to walk away changed, having absorbed something so incredible that their lives have been forever altered."

Three dozen organizations, agencies and businesses will provide educational exhibits each day at the Custom House Plaza, and the wharf will be teeming with demonstrations, activities and performances.

Among the attractions will be "Squid for Kids" by Bill Gilly of Hopkins Marine Station, "Blubber Hands" by the Pacific Grove Natural History Museum, the Coast Guard Inflatable Search and Rescue vessel and it's 47-foot motor lifeboat, net mending, the Monterey Peninsula Yacht Club's Remote-Controlled Sailing Regatta, shore operations by the Monterey Fire Boat and "whale tricks" by Whiskie the Whale Spotter, a rescue dog owned by Peggy Stap, founder of the Marine Life Studies research group.

Stap and Marine Life Studies also will lead "Take It To The Streets," a volunteer street clean-up effort (10 a.m. to 1 p.m. both days) designed to protect the ocean habitat.

"About 80 percent of everything we pick up along a beach clean-up is land-based debris. We'll be picking up trash before it can get into the storm drains and waterways, and hopefully keep it from getting into the ocean," Stap said. "We premiered this program with the Boys and Girls Clubs of Salinas and Seaside.

Whale-watching cruises will capture moments like this during this weekend’s Whalefest.
Whale-watching cruises will capture moments like this during this weekend's Whalefest.
The kids absolutely loved it, and they picked up more than 200 pounds of trash in about two hours."

At 12:30 p.m. Saturday, Museum of Monterey will have a special screening of the film, "Ocean Frontiers," followed at 1:30 by a panel discussion and at 2 p.m. by a lecture by marine photographer Bryant Austin about his exhibit, "Beautiful Whale."

The museum also will be the venue at noon on Sunday for five short films from the BLUE Ocean Film Festival, followed at 2:30 p.m. by a showing of "Planet Ocean."

"The Whalefest has existed in some form for eight or 10 years, but this is just the third year in the current format, which is a completely different concept under the same name," Fettis said. "We've had a lot of fun reaching out to every possible organization — people who study sharks, whales, otters ... all types of sea life — and bringing them together for a weekend to share their knowledge and educate the public about our oceans and the beautiful treasure that is the Monterey Bay."

For a full list of attractions and time schedules, visit and click on the Whalefest link, or call 649-6544.

Dennis Taylor can be reached at GO!

What: Whalefest Monterey
Where: Fisherman's Wharf, Custom House Plaza, Museum of Monterey, Wharf Theater
When: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 26, and Sunday, Jan. 27
Tickets: Free
Information: or 649-6544