VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – The Vancouver Aquarium will be closed to the public starting Sept. 8, and it’s unclear when it will reopen.
Ocean Wise has announced it will “temporarily pause public programming” at the aquarium in order to “focus on transforming to a new model” that addresses the financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Ocean Wise says it will also take the time to focus on accelerating ocean conservation.
“During this time, animals at the Aquarium will continue to receive world-class care from a team of 75 specialized staff, including biologists, trainers and on-site veterinary team,” a release assures.
More than 200 people are expected to lose their jobs as a result of this closure.
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Calling it “one of the most challenging times in the Vancouver Aquarium’s 64-year history,” Ocean Wise says the COVID-19 pandemic is to blame for an almost 80 per cent decline in ticket sales. Due to safety protocols — brought in to help slow the spread of the coronavirus — the organization says visitor restrictions would have lasted well into next year.
Research, education, cleanup, and other initiatives will continue regardless of the aquarium closure. Ocean Wise says the Marine Mammal Rescue and Ocean Wise Seafood programs will also continue.
“We are committed to getting the Aquarium back on solid financial footing so that we can continue to build on its legacy and tackle the most pressing ocean conservation challenges of our time, including climate change, pollution, and overfishing,” Christian Baxter, board chair of Ocean Wise, says in a release. “Staff reductions were an incredibly difficult decision and one we truly hoped to avoid.”
The aquarium, which was forced to shut its doors to visitors on March 17, only reopened in June. It was forced to lay off 60 per cent of its staff temporarily as a result of that closure.
Ocean Wise warned in mid-April that the Vancouver Aquarium was at risk of closing for good if it couldn’t secure at least $1 million a month by June.
It was announced in June that the aquarium had raised enough money to keep its emergency rescue centre open, surpassing its goal of $125,000, after funding dried up due to the loss of admission.
However, due to lower visitor numbers, the aquarium hasn’t been able to cover operating costs.
“Under these difficult circumstances, reinventing the Aquarium is the most responsible thing we can do,” Lasse Gustavsson, president and CEO of Ocean Wise, says. “It is because of support from our members, donors, volunteers, staff, program partners, and government that we were able to avoid bankruptcy and take this important step to rebuild and come back even better.”
Vancouver Centre MP Hedy Fry said Ottawa has been offering help to the aquarium and is hopeful it will reopen.
“I think it’s a good idea for the aquarium at the moment, and Ocean Wise, to focus on the extraordinary work that is its international reputation. It’s considered to be the number one in the world in terms of animal rescue programs, and in terms of research, and education programs. So I mean, it’s continuing to do those really important things, so that’s keeping that alive internationally,” she added.