Young marine life enthusiasts enjoy the touch tank at opening day of the Discovery Passage Aquarium back in 2013. The facility is officially open for its fourth season

Ocean exploration starts again at the aquarium

The Discovery Passage Aquarium has officially opened its doors for its fourth season, and manager Christine Kleinsteuber and her staff are excited to be welcoming the community and visitors and helping them continue to learn about the sea.

The aquarium was opened in 2013 thanks to the help of local businesses, environmental groups and hard-working volunteers. It closes for the winter each year, but from spring to fall, seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., visitors are welcome to come see what is essentially an above-ground extension of the marine environment in the Discovery Passage.

The tanks of the aquarium are filled with water being constantly pulled from and returned to the sea through a series of tubes and pumps that join the aquarium to the ocean, so the life within those tanks is being exposed to the exact same conditions as the life under the pier.

Each fall at the end of the season, all the sea life on display is returned to the ocean and each spring they have to go collect it all again.

While there are some popular exhibits and displays that have returned for this season from previous years, Kleinstueber says, there are some that are brand new, as well.

“These wolf eels are back on loan from the Vancouver Aquarium after spending the winter at the Deep Bay Marine Field Station,” she says enthusiastically, peering into a tank at the back of the aquarium Saturday at the grand opening, searching for the elusive critters hiding in the rocks, “but this one,” she says, pointing to a paper-covered display that reads “coming soon” is really going to be something exciting for the community, she says.

“It’s our new Kreisel tank,” she explains, “and it’s for our jellyfish that are coming any day now.”

Kreisel tanks – named after the German oceanographer who developed them in the 1960s to house plankton aboard research vessels – are specifically designed for particularly sensitive species’ of ocean life. Instead of a normal pump system, the water in a Kreisel tank flows through a layer of substrate on the bottom of a round tank, spreading out the suction over a large surface area so that there are no strong points of suction that can harm species like jellyfish. The water circulation within the tank is also different in that it is powered by air bubbles instead of water pumps, and flows in such a way that it helps to keep the jellyfish away from the edges of the tank.

Kleinsteuber is also excited to announce that their popular night-viewing event will be happening monthly this season. Night-viewing, she says, is where the public can experience the exquisite beauty of aquatic bioluminescence – organisms that produce their own light, as well as see the animals that only come out at night.

Watch their Facebook page or follow @DPAquarium on Twitter for announcements of upcoming events and special showings, and find their admission rates and other information online at discoverypassageaquarium.ca