Vancouver Aquarium at risk of bankruptcy and permanent closure

Apr 16 2020, 5:22 pm

Vancouver Aquarium has issued a dire warning that it could be forced to close permanently by early summer if it is unable to find emergency operational funding.

Due to COVID-19 health safety reasons and the drop in the number of visitors because of physical distancing, the aquarium made a decision on March 17 to shutter its doors temporarily, but without any visitors this reduced its revenues to nearly zero.

The not-for-profit organization that owns and operates the aquarium has already taken measures to mitigate its losses, including laying off 331 non-essential staff — about 60% of its workforce — as well as closing the Marine Mammal Rescue Centre near Centerm terminal, suspending maintenance projects, and reviewing the feasibility of some of its research, conservation, and education programs.

Additionally, many of the remaining staff are now working reduced work weeks, and senior leaders have taken voluntary pay cuts.

But there are operating costs that cannot be avoided or reduced, specifically the minimum $1 million per month needed to provide the aquarium’s 70,000 animals with continued basic animal care and habitat maintenance. Currently, the aquarium is using its reserve funds, but they are depleting rapidly.

The aquarium is appealing to governments and the community, including donations from individuals, to help fill the funding gap.

“Like many other non-profit organizations, Ocean Wise is rapidly depleting our reserve funds in order to care for the animals at the Vancouver Aquarium” said Lasse Gustavsson, Ocean Wise’s president & CEO.

“The worst-case scenario is certainly the permanent closure of a 60-year-old marine science centre. But even the best-case scenario of reopening this summer will put us years behind on our ocean conservation, research, education and environmental engagement goals. We are hopeful we will be able to continue these important initiatives for marine life well into the future.”

The attraction in Stanley Park typically sees over one million visitors every year, and it does not depend on funding from governments, but rather through admission and private donations.

But its reach goes far beyond the aquarium facility, as it also performs research, rescue, and rehabilitation work of marine mammals.

In 2017, the aquarium underwent a reorganization and grew its long-running Ocean Wise initiative into its parent organization, Ocean Wise Conservation Association.

“We can’t let this organization disappear. It brings so much to the community,” said Randy Pratt, Board Chair of Ocean Wise Conservation Association.

“From educational programs for youth, a much-loved volunteer program, not to mention a place for people to learn about the ocean and why it needs protecting. We are calling on all our supporters now to help us.”

To donate, visit the Vancouver Aquarium’s website.

Kenneth ChanKenneth Chan

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