Members of the Discovery Passage Aquarium staff from left, Nathan Duifhuis, Brianna Marcoux, Ricky Belanger, Robyn Douglas, Hailee Arlitt and Grant Matthews, pose for a photo with touch tank specimens on Aug. 26, 2019. The aquarium’s last day of the season will be Sept. 2. They’ll be releasing specimens Monday afternoon and could use the community’s help. Photo by Marissa Tiel/Campbell River Mirror

Discovery Passage Aquarium needs your help on Release Day

Campbell River seasonal aquarium requesting volunteers to release sea critters on Sept. 2

Summer vacation is coming to an end not just for Campbell River students.

The Discovery Passage Aqaurium’s seasonal guests will be released back into the ocean on Sept. 2.

“We bring animals into the aquarium for a little vacation,” said Aquarium Manager Ricky Belanger. “They go back out into the ocean and they just resume their natural life cycle if it were to have been paused for the time they were in the aquarium.”

The animals will be released during a Release Party Monday afternoon. They will be released in three main areas: Discovery Fishing Pier, Fisherman’s Wharf and the beach near the Explorer Lab. Some animals, like the sea stars, will also be released at the Willow Point Reef.

The goal is to put the critters back where they were found, said Brianna Marcoux, an educator with the aquarium’s Explorer Lab. “So we’re disrupting them as little as possible.”

The seasonal aquarium practices catch and release. Before it opens in early summer, local specimens like black-eyed hermit crabs, grunt sculpins, salmon and sea stars are caught in the Discovery Passage and brought in for educational purposes.

After more than three months spent teaching the public about the animals and caring for them, it will be time for staff to say goodbye.

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“You get to play with them and interact with them and through that you build a relationship with the animals,” said Hailee Arlitt, an Explorer Lab educator. “It’s definitely hard to leave those animals for release day.

“It’s very happy and very sad at the same time.”

The aquarium staff could use some help putting the animals back in their homes.

“We want it to be a community thing because we are a community aquarium and that’s why we do this, to engage the public,” said Belanger.

They’re looking for volunteers to release animals as well as help to marshal people.

Last year around 50 people came out to help, said Belanger.

“We will clean 90 per cent of the aquarium out in the span of two hours with the public’s help,” he said.

You’ll be given a bucket with a handful of creatures that live in the same habitat.

There is a special technique to release the animals, but staff and knowledgeable volunteers will be on hand to help.

“You can’t just drop them off the pier,” said Belanger. “Moon snails don’t like belly flops.”

While the majority of the animals will be released on Monday with the public’s help, a few require special attention. Among them is Thanos, the giant Pacific octopus, who remains a staff favourite.

Staff are remaining tight-lipped about his release location.

“We’re thinking about putting him in a spot that’s a little more secluded and has less access from fishermen,” said Belanger.

“We want him to stay safe,” added Arlitt.

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Anyone interested in helping coordinate volunteers at the Release Party should email info@discoverypassageaquarium.ca.

The aquarium wil be open from 10 a.m. to noon on Sept. 2. The release party starts at 1 p.m.

Just because the aquarium is closing doesn’t mean there’s no opportunities to learn about local sea life.

The Explorer Lab and its school programs will run into September. More information can be found at www.discoverypassageaquarium.ca/explorer-lab.