Aquarium on track to open June 8 by pier

A new aquarium downtown will be Campbell River's latest seasonal attraction

Lorrie Bewza

As Discovery Passage SeaLife Society nears its targeted June 8 opening date for a downtown aquarium, more details about the seasonal attraction are being revealed.

The society, which received charitable status this week, is accepting donations and plans to unveil the aquarium on June 8, Ocean’s Day.

The aquarium will feature approximately 30 tanks with creatures that are native to the area.

Mark Wunsch, president of the SeaLife Society, said the intent is to give people a better understanding of the surrounding environment.

“The intention is to represent the local environment and highlight special habitats,” Wunsch said.

To do that, the society plans to set up a three feet wide by four feet high cylindrical tank to house smolts and tell the story of the salmon.

Wunsch said visitors will also be able to see plankton (which the salmon feed on), rock fish, crabs, sponges, corals, sea cucumbers, and sand dollars, among other things.

There are also plans to have a few touch tanks so visitors to the aquarium can reach in and experience what it’s like to touch a sea star, which Wunsch said smells like garlic, or a sea slug.

“We’ll be covering quite a bit of ground,” Wunsch said. “The small, diverse life on the sea floor and swimming in the water.”

Lorrie Bewza, vice-president of Discovery Passage SeaLife Society, said the society expects to collect the sea life this month in preparation for the aquarium’s grand opening. The plan is to release all of the creatures back to the ocean in September. That process will be repeated each year, and the aquarium will be open annually from May to September.

While the aquarium will cater to locals and tourists, Bewza said the number one priority will be the welfare of the sea life.

“We’ll be pumping in salt water from the ocean and running it through the tanks to keep the tanks cool and provide oxygen and nutrition,” Bewza said. “The building will always be kept cool or cold because it’s about the creatures first.”

The aquarium will be located off to the side of the ramp up to the Discovery Pier. The aquarium, a 16 feet wide x 48 feet long building formerly used as an aquarium in Ucluelet, was purchased last summer by Discovery Passage SeaLife Society with the help of the Campbell River Rotary Club.

The building comes with all the pumps and equipment necessary to run the aquarium but the society is still looking for donors to help with the cost of daily operations and upkeep.

Capital Power Corporation helped kick off the campaign with a $2,500 donation Wednesday afternoon.

Anyone interested in making a donation or sponsoring a tank can e-mail info@discoverypassageaquarium.ca

Admission to the aquarium is expected to be as follows: $6 for adults, $5 for seniors, $4 for students, free for children and $2 per student for school classes.

For more aquarium information visit www.discoverypassageaquarium.ca