In Real Time: Spend Three Nights In Monterey Bay With Big Blue LIVE


In an unprecedented partnership between PBS and the BBC, BIG BLUE LIVE brings together scientists, filmmakers and other experts in late August and early September to document the extraordinary rejuvenation of the once-endangered and now thriving ecosystem of Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary in California. Some of the world’s most charismatic marine creatures — humpback whales, blue whales, sea lions, dolphins, elephant seals, sea otters, great white sharks, shearwaters, and brown pelicans — convene in this once-a-year confluence.

BIG BLUE LIVE airs live on WVPB over three nights, Aug. 31-Sept. 2, 2015, at 8-9 p.m. ET, with another live feed to the West Coast at 8-9 p.m. PT. In both feeds, as well as streaming online and in social media, viewers can watch one of nature’s great “reality shows” delivered through state-of-the-art filming technologies and live reports from air, sea, and below the waves. The multi-platform event will be anchored by four on-air correspondents from a reporting hub at the Monterey Bay Aquarium and from aboard NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) Office of National Marine Sanctuaries’ research vessels. They will be joined by science and animal behavior experts who will provide additional commentary and analysis. In the week prior to the PBS broadcast, BBC will air its live broadcast in the UK and will be streaming online and through social media for UK viewers.


Credit Courtesy Claudio Contreras.
Northern elephant seal (Mirounga angustirostris) pup / weaner stretching on beach, Guadalupe Island Biosphere Reserve, off the coast of Baja California, Mexico, April.

  M. Sanjayan, familiar to PBS audiences from his recent work for EARTH – A NEW WILD earlier in 2015, is the chief scientist at Conservation International. He recently answered questions from PBS about the upcoming BIG BLUE LIVE:

PBS: What about the marine life converging in Monterey Bay and being a part of BIG BLUE LIVE is most exciting for you?


Credit Courtesy Ami Vitale.
Dr. M. Sanjayan is one of the hosts of BIG BLUE LIVE. Sanjayan previously hosted EARTH: A NEW WILD, seen on West Virginia Public Broadcasting.

  SANJAYAN: Rarely in conservation do we get to tell a story of success. So much of it is doom and gloom, but here in the Monterey Bay, on the edge of the largest ocean of the Pacific, monsters still roam, wolves of the sea still hunt in packs, and the greatest recovery story of our time is happening. How can I not be excited? Of course, working with the BBC and PBS is an honor dream for anyone in media — and my co-hosts Steve Backshall and Liz Bonnin, and scientists like Dr. Joy Reidenberg providing background along the way — are the best of the best. It will be a thrill to watch these professionals at work.

PBS: What will viewers learn overall from this event? How might this year’s activities be different from recent years? 

SANJAYAN: It’s LIVE. You get to see the ocean life as it happens.  The diversity will stun you. Here at our doorsteps — at the doorsteps of cities like San Francisco and Los Angles — a revival is going on. I think this event will be illuminating the issues of the ocean in a way never done before, with an immediacy that can be felt and heard, and absorbed by the audience.

PBS: What marine life do you expect to see? What would be the rarest-yet-possible marine mammal sighting we might see on BIG BLUE LIVE

SANJAYAN: Well, it’s LIVE TV so who knows what will happen? Of course, I am confident that the cutest mammal in the ocean — the sea otter — will make a showing. I am hopeful that the blue whale, the largest mammal, or for that matter, largest animal that has ever lived on the planet, will show up. In between, we are going to have everything from sharks to albatrosses. But again, it’s live; I expect to see the unexpected.


Credit Courtesy Adam White.
Southern Sea Otters.

PBS: What is the importance of areas like Monterey Bay Marine Sanctuary? What do you think was most effective in turning around the animal population rejuvenation in Monterey Bay? Is it a model for other areas of the Earth?

SANJAYAN: Monterey Bay was close to a sewer not that long ago. People could not live there because of the smell. But they turned it around because some amazing people decided to appreciate the true cost of environmental harm or the true value of nature. Today, it’s a thriving economy, for tourists, farmers, and fishers — all because we realized that people need nature to thrive. It’s living proof that if we act before it’s too late, the resilience of nature will amaze us and the value of nature will surpass our expectations. 

PBS: Are there common misconceptions about migration or animal repopulation? If so, what are they? 


Credit Courtesy Bill Margol.
Common dolphins.

  SANJAYAN: I don’t think people appreciate how far or how fast some animals migrate. Tuna you can see in the Monterey Bay Aquarium swim 12,000 miles a year on an annual migration. We know tuna can make a trip from Japan to San Diego in 90 days. That’s astonishing — and remember they are not going in a straight line. We also still know so little about the oceans. Simple things like where sharks have their babies are only now just being revealed — and you might get a clue if you watch the show. The ocean is still full of mystery, and every technology we employ reveals a little more and each reveal is better than the last. 

PBS: Beyond broadcast, how can viewers follow this story?

SANJAYAN: On social media. We expect to have a robust presence and engage the viewer. We don’t want passive viewers; we want active participants in this EVENT. It’s like the Super Bowl for nature: Get your popcorn, get your drinks, and start cheering for your team. We want you to create your own live nature engagement. Nature is all around, and events in nature are happening all the time. It’s going to be quite a ride. 

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