SM PIER — Wanting to raise awareness, the Heal the Bay Santa Monica Pier Aquarium installed two, nearly 30-foot blue signs with bold white lettering above its entrance, alerting visitors to its presence.

No longer would people say, “I didn’t know there was an aquarium at the pier.”

Now those banners, valued at close to $2,000 each, have disappeared and the aquarium is asking for the public’s help in finding them.

Workers noticed the banners were missing Sept. 23. The banners were removed from the aquarium entrance for roughly an hour so that some touch-up painting and hardware repair could be completed. The aquarium closes in September for an annual, thorough cleaning and revamping of exhibits.

Workers placed the banners — 28-feet, by 4.5 feet, each weighing at least 40 pounds — on the pier deck above the aquarium against the eastern railing. When they returned an hour later, they were gone.

“I don’t know why someone would take the banners that are branded with our name on them,” said Vicki Wawerchak, director of the aquarium. “Hopefully that will make them easier to find, or else we will have to raise funds to replace them.”

The theft was reported to the Santa Monica Police Department, and members of the aquarium staff spent part of the afternoon of the theft cruising the bike path and adjacent beach parking lots in an attempt to find the missing banners. The community of pier employees, including pier maintenance and beach maintenance staffs and Santa Monica’s Harbor Patrol joined in the search as well. So far, the banners are still missing, Wawerchak said.

With or without the signs in place, the aquarium will reopen to the public and for school programs on Oct. 1. Winter public hours are Tuesday through Friday, 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. and weekends from 12:30 p.m. to 5 p.m.

The aquarium is Heal the Bay’s marine education facility located beach-level, just below the carousel, at the pier. It attracts more than 85,000 visitors each year.

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