Alexander Gruger-Cowper

New residents spice aquarium opening

Octopus, sea pens among new denizens on display as Discover Passage Aquarium opens for 2015 season

Interpreter Deryn Ramsey helps Noah Isberg, 6, explore a touch tank as Discovery Passage Aquarium opened its season Saturday, May 16, 2015.   —J.R. Rardon/Campbell River Mirror

Discovery Passage Aquarium’s newest resident made it to the stage in time for the opening curtain.

Just barely.

Rebecca the octopus — named for the location where it was gathered just off Rebecca Spit —was brought in as staff readied final preparations for opening day of the 2015 season Saturday morning.

“Every specimen we collect is done under a DFO license, and we’ve got a few regular people who help us out,” said Deb Cowper, aquarium manager. “This was a friend of ours who fishes, and he brought her in 15 minutes before opening.”

Opening day unveiled not only the octopus, but another new exhibit in the form of sea pens, delicate-looking animals that anchor into the sand and wave in the current, looking vaguely like fans or feathers.

Even after the aquarium opened, new residents continued to stream in. Cowper’s daughter, Rowan Gruger-Cowper, celebrated her ninth birthday by helping collect tiny crabs from the tidal zone and placing them in an exhibit with rocks and seaweed.

The aquarium packs a lot into a limited space, including a pair of popular touch tanks, a large cylindrical tank with several species of juvenile salmon, sculpins, crabs, prawns, sea cucumbers, sea stars, anemones, urchins, nudibranchs, moon snails and more.

Many live in homes adorned with kelp forests or eel grass beds among other marine plant life.

The aquarium has also announced the opening of its newest venture, the Explorer Lab, which will provide year-round programming for all ages and work and meeting space for staff and volunteers.

The aquarium is located on Pier Street, across the parking lot from the Maritime Heritage Centre, and is open 10 a.m.-5 p.m. daily.



Rowan Gruger-Cowper celebrates her ninth birthday by helping stock tiny crabs in a tidal zone display at Discovery Passage Aquarium as it opened its 2015 season Saturday, May 16.

J.R. Rardon/Campbell River Mirror