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Milton Shedd, 79; Co-Founder of Sea World Began Marine Institute

TIMES STAFF WRITER

When he was 5, he stood on the Santa Monica Pier and fished for smelt, beginning a lifelong love affair with the sea and all the creatures in it.

Before he died Friday, he had spent more than 3,500 days on the ocean and extracted untold numbers of striped marlin and white sea bass. But he put back far more than the fish or the profits he took out as an experienced angler and manufacturer of fishing tackle.

Milton C. Shedd, one of the four fraternity brothers who founded Sea World and the creator of its research institute, died at his Newport Beach home of cancer. He was 79.

Sea World opened March 21, 1964, on 22 acres of San Diego’s Mission Bay leased from the city. The park now covers 190 acres, has welcomed more than 100 million visitors and is one of California’s leading tourist attractions.

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What the UCLA frat brothers first started talking about was not a marine theme park, but a simple restaurant with an underwater bar--perhaps an under-the-sea view they could add to the Long Beach eatery already owned by George Millay, or maybe a whole new facility they could build together in Mission Bay. Shedd, then a stockbroker; Dr. Kenneth Norris, curator of sea animals at Marineland of the Pacific, Dave De Motte and Millay weighed the problems of building such an underwater attraction.

Eventually, the difficult engineering involved and their joint interest in helping people better understand marine life led the quartet to abandon the restaurant and concentrate on starting an oceanarium. Shedd, Millay (who later created the Wet ‘n Wild waterslide parks), Norris and De Motte raised $1.5 million and built Sea World.

In 1965, they acquired Shamu and became the first theme park to exhibit a killer whale, an attraction that assured the park’s continuity.

Shedd was president or board chairman of Sea World for nearly 20 years and helped create other Sea Worlds in Florida and Ohio. The parks were sold in 1981 to Harcourt Brace Jovanovich Inc. and later to other conglomerates.

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But Shedd’s lasting legacy to marine science and education is considered the nonprofit research foundation he created in 1963, originally called the Mission Bay Research Institute and in 1977 renamed the Hubbs-Sea World Research Institute to honor Carl and Laura Hubbs’ contributions to marine science.

“When you consider that there’s been a huge population explosion

Some of Shedd’s happiest days were collecting live specimens for the theme park aboard his 67-foot boat, dubbed Sea World and built as a marine research and fishery development vessel. He later donated the boat, now called Sea World UCLA, to the UCLA Marine Science Center, which he helped establish to prepare grade-school teachers to instruct children about marine life.

Shedd had also helped create a white sea bass hatchery in Carlsbad and was recently promoting the use of obsolete oil platform rigging as artificial reefs to serve as fish habitats.

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With his wife, Shedd acquired Axelson Fishing Tackle Manufacturing Co., known as AFTCO, in 1973, and later developed such subsidiaries as Bluewater Wear, which sells fish-printed camp shirts, fishing shorts and other clothing.

Even garbing and equipping fishermen, Shedd believed, could illustrate the ocean’s importance to mankind.

“People aren’t aware that the oceans produce more than 50% of the Earth’s oxygen,” he told The Times in 1995. “Our company is about developing this awareness. The ocean is something we live and breathe.”

Born in El Paso and reared in Southern California, Shedd earned a degree in banking and finance from UCLA, where he played baseball and football. His college years were interrupted by World War II, in which he served as an Army officer in the Pacific, earning a Silver Star, Bronze Star and Purple Heart.

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Among the awards he earned for his oceanic endeavors were the lifetime achievement award from the Audubon Society’s Living Oceans Program and the Professional Achievement Award from UCLA.

Shedd is survived by his wife of 58 years, Peggie; a daughter, Carol McCarren of Denver; two sons, Steve of Mission Viejo and Bill of Irvine; a sister, Ruth Orem, of Newport Beach; a brother, Irv, of Newport Beach; nine grandchildren; and one great-grandson.

A memorial service is planned for 3 p.m. today at the Leon Raymond Hubbard Jr. Marine Fish Hatchery, 4200 Garfield St., Carlsbad.

Memorial donations can be sent to the Hubbs-Sea World Research Institute, 2595 Ingraham St., San Diego, CA 92109.

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