Aiden Hink looks at the sea life in the touch tank with aquarium volunteer/interpreter Kate during the grand opening of the facility Saturday morning.

Aquarium opens to large and anxious crowd on Ocean’s Day

Around a hundred people eagerly lined up Saturday morning to get a glimpse of Campbell River’s newest attraction

Around a hundred people eagerly lined up Saturday morning to get a glimpse of Campbell River’s newest attraction.

At 11:30 a.m., Coun. Keith Wilson with the Cape Mudge band, cut the ribbon to officially open the brand-new aquarium at the foot of the fishing pier.

The opening was tied into Ocean’s Day which included various ocean exhibits, live music, food, face painting, and salmon print making.

But the big attraction appeared to be the aquarium, with nearly one hundred people forming a line to enter the building as the opening was announced.

Before cutting the ribbon, Mark Wunsch, president of the Discovery Passage SeaLife Society, acknowledged all the work that went into creating the aquarium which features about 30 tanks full of creatures native to the area.

“It’s about community building and sharing,” said Mark Wunsch, president of the Discovery Passage SeaLife Society which runs the aquarium. “You don’t just do this project out of your pocket.”

Wunsch said it was amazing how the community responded. Several business provided the society with monetary donations to get the aquarium up and running. Al and Sons provided an excavator to prepare the site for the building and Seymour Pacific put the building together, free of charge.

Wunsch said the idea behind the aquarium is to bring the sea life to the surface for everyone to enjoy.

“There is so much life here and it’s not really seen and we depend on it,” Wunsch said. “Our idea is to present some of that, bring the life to the surface for you who can’t go under water – which is fun, but not everybody can do that.”

Just minutes after the ribbon cutting, kids were already inside, sticking their hands in the cool water of the touch tanks.

Volunteers spoke to the kids as they gleefully picked up star fish and tiny crabs.

Visitors also viewed tanks full of plankton, rock fish, sponges, coral, sea cucumbers, and sand dollars, among other things.

All of the sea life will be released in the fall when the aquarium will shut down until next season.

During that period, Wunsch said the plan is to run a speakers series through the winter to educate people not only in science, but to pass on First Nations traditions and history related to the ocean.

Wilson said the aquarium is a connection to First Nations culture.

“It’s a wonderful thing to see this aquarium going up, everybody can see what our ancestors have been seeing for years,” Wilson said.

Mayor Walter Jakeway praised the SeaLife Society for making the aquarium happen.

“Last year on Ocean’s Day this was only an idea and volunteers turned it into a reality,” Jakeway said. “A lot of people did a lot of work. We thank the volunteers for making this aquarium become a reality – hopefully in years to come we can make it even bigger.”

The aquarium is open Sunday-Thursday from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. and on Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m.-7 p.m.

Admission is $6 for adults, $4 for students and children six and up, free for children under five and $18 for a family (two adults plus up to four kids/students). Season passes are available.