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The oil spill in the Gulf has made a lot of enemies for BP, and it's created a real public relations problem for some of the good causes that BP has supported over the years. The Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach, California, is one of their latest projects.

As NPR's Carrie Kahn reports, the aquarium has opened a new sea otter exhibit with BP's name inscribed on the wall.

(Soundbite of children)

CARRIE KAHN: It's a busy day at the aquarium. Dozens of school kids press up against the glass of a giant floor-to-ceiling tank filled with tiger sharks, yellow fin tunas, and huge sea bass.

Unidentified Woman: It's a little noisy out here right now. So if I could ask everybody to settle down just a bit.

KAHN: Just then, a diver plunges into the tank to feed the hungry sharks and fish. This daily frenzy is a crowd pleaser at the aquarium. Out back on the patio, the aquarium's President Jerry Schubel is about to encounter his own frenzy from the media.

Dr. JERRY SCHUBEL (President/CEO, Aquarium of the Pacific): Good morning, everyone. If I could have your attention, please, we'd like to get started.

KAHN: He's unveiling the newly remodeled sea otter habitat, thanks to a million-dollar grant from BP.

Dr. SCHUBEL: The BP sea otter habitat sets a new standard for sea otter exhibits and also for conservation education.

KAHN: As soon as he's done, cameramen, photographers and reporters circle him and ask: How can the aquarium take money from BP, the biggest polluter of oceans these days?

Dr. SCHUBEL: Life is filled with ironies. Our role is in education. We're an educational institution devoted to conservation, so I don't feel that this gift is at odds with our mission.

KAHN: Schubel says the BP logo will remain on the exhibit. He has no regrets taking the money, nor for inviting BP's rep to the opening.

Matt Rezvani, BP's West Coast manager, says he offered to stay home.

Mr. MATT REZVANI (General Manager, West Coast External Affairs, BP America Inc.): This is about the aquarium, not about BP. It's a great achievement, we just happen to be a sponsor, and we didn't want to tarnish that.

KAHN: BP actually gave the million dollars to the aquarium years before the current oil spill in the Gulf. The oil company has been a big sponsor of Southern California institutions, including public broadcasting and the arts. No charity has said it plans to give back the donations or remove BP's name.

Stacy Palmer, editor of The Chronicle of Philanthropy's, says it's a tough spot for non-profits who put corporate names all over their exhibits, museums and meeting places. She said the practice is widespread and isn't going away.

Ms. STACY PALMER (Editor, The Chronicle of Philanthropy): But I think people will be more cautious in negotiating in these agreements and saying, are there ways that we can perhaps change this arrangement if in case something happens?

(Soundbite of children)

KAHN: At the aquarium, none of the patrons I talked to said BP's money should be returned. Most, like Cindy Dember, said the oil giant should give even more.

Ms. CINDY DEMBER: BP is giving to a good cause. And, you know, they need to give to a lot of good causes, 'cause they've caused a lot of damage.

KAHN: But here in Long Beach, the aquarium says it will put BP's money to good use.

Carrie Kahn, NPR News.

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