The S.C. Aquarium’s newest advocacy group, the Aquarium Alliance, hosted the Sea Life by Starlight fundraiser on Friday night. Patrons meandered through the maze of tanks which, candlelit and alive with ocean creatures, created the feeling of being deep beneath the sea. Tables covered with silent auction items were scattered around the aquarium’s two stories, and top-shelf wet bars sat in every corner. Caviar and Bananas provided a generous seafood-themed spread, including fresh sushi rolls and a scrumptious paella.

Next to the 385,000 gallon Great Ocean Tank, DJ Trailmix spun tunes while guests scribbled silent auction bids and ordered Johnny Walker with a school of Short Bigeye fish looking on. A woman in a long, silk cocktail dress nibbled cheese cubes next to a sandtiger shark. In the Great Hall, the Tonawanda Kardex band played a mix of festive holiday songs and dance classics.

The event attracted passionate marine conservationists like Chris Lakian, a New York-transplant eager to contribute to local efforts. “It’s important for me as an active Charlestonian to protect the sea life,” he said.

The enormous space left some areas feeling empty at times, and it was only when the 300 or so guests gathered for the live auction that the scale of the event was evident. The live auction was the big finale and while an occasional item floundered — a sweetgrass basket woven by Mary Jackson estimated at $10,000 fetched only $1,000 — most did just swimmingly, including a VIP Southern sports package that included a year of free beer and premier seats to everything from NASCAR races to NFL games.