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Vancouver Aquarium warns it could close permanently

Last Updated Apr 15, 2020 at 6:26 pm PDT

FILE - The outside of the Vancouver Aquarium is pictured in Vancouver, B.C. Friday, Nov. 18, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Summary

The aquarium is hemorrhaging $3.3 million a month after shutting down due to COVID-19: CEO

Ocean Wise applied for $9.5 million in emergency funding from the federal government three weeks ago

CEO not sure how the aquarium's 70,000 animals would be cared for

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — The Vancouver Aquarium could close for good in two months if it’s unable to secure at least $1 million a month in immediate financial support.

Lasse Gustavsson, CEO of Ocean Wise, which operates the aquarium, said it projects to lose $3.3 million a month after shutting down due to COVID-19.

“For the aquarium and Ocean Wise, the conservation organization, this is a disaster,” he added.

Ocean Wise applied for $9.5 million in emergency funding from the federal government three weeks ago, Gustavsson said, but hasn’t heard back yet.

He has talked to four different federal ministries, including the prime minister’s office, and said his sense is they all want to help the aquarium.

“And we know that they are working on some kind of emergency support package for us right now,” Gustavsson added.

He’s also talked to the province and was encouraged by the positive feedback, but said no money has been committed yet to help.

“So we are optimistic are remain hopeful that we will be able to continue,” Gustavsson said.

The aquarium has a 35-year lease in Stanley Park and wants to continue operating there, he added.

“But if nothing happens, if there is no support, we will be running out of money in a couple of months time.”

The aquarium closed March 17 for health and safety reasons and had to lay off 60 per cent of its staff temporarily. Another group of workers was reduced to part-time.

If the aquarium does have to close permanently, Gustavsson admits he’s not sure how its 70,000 animals — from spiders to seas lions — will be cared for.

Unlike any other visitor attractions, “we can’t just switch off the lights and go home.”