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Vancouver Aquarium taken over by U.S. company amid financial hardship

Last Updated Apr 15, 2021 at 11:50 am PDT

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

Vancouver Aquarium says it's been saved

Herschend has taken ownership of the Vancouver Aquarium, which was forced to close temporarily due to the pandemic

Ocean Wise will continue to operate as an independent charitable non-profit

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – The Vancouver Aquarium says it’s been saved.

An American company is taking over ownership of the popular attraction from the Ocean Wise Conservation Association.

The aquarium says the agreement between Ocean Wise and Herschend Enterprises ensures the future of the facility “with the financial strength to continue building on its 64-years of success as an animal care and animal rescue facility, a cherished educational venue, and one of BC’s top tourist and event destinations.”

Ocean Wise had reached out to more than 70 parties locally and globally in its search for a solution to the aquarium’s financial hardships.

VanAqua has been losing money since the COVID-19 pandemic began. It was forced to shut down to the public in September over lost revenue.

It’s unclear when the aquarium will reopen at this time.

According to a statement, Ocean Wise worked to secure this deal to avoid having to see the aquarium close its doors permanently.

Herschend, which is a U.S.-based attractions and tourism operator, owns two aquariums accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.

“This is a very positive outcome that secures both the future of the Vancouver Aquarium and the Marine Mammal Rescue Centre,” said Clint Wright, who is and will remain chief operating officer of the Vancouver Aquarium. “I have been fortunate to spend almost my entire career at the Vancouver Aquarium and I look forward to continuing to lead the organization as we emerge from the challenges of the pandemic and write the Aquarium’s next chapter. I have known the Herschend team for many years, they share our values, and I am extremely optimistic about the new and exciting opportunities that will be open to us with Herschend’s financial and creative support.”

The U.S. company has agreed to donate one per cent of its annual gross revenues from the Vancouver Aquarium to Ocean Wise to support VanAqua’s conservation program.

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Ocean Wise is going to continue to operate as an independent charitable non-profit. It will still be led by conservationist Lasse Gustavsson.

“Going forward, Ocean Wise will continue to focus on solving the biggest challenges facing our oceans: climate change, pollution and overfishing,” said Gustavsson.

Herschend says it and the aquarium plan to consult with the facility’s guests, partners, stakeholders, and staff to understand what they would like to see in the future.