The local and international community is rallying behind the Vancouver Aquarium, as it has seen a total of $624,427 in donations from over 8,200 individuals in just over the past week.
The attraction’s not-for-profit parent organization, Ocean Wise Conservation Association, announced on April 16 it could be forced to permanently close this summer if it depletes its cash reserves. The aquarium has seen zero admission and concession revenue through its doors ever since it shut down on March 17 for COVID-19 health safety reasons.
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However, even with the stripped down operating costs of $1 million per month that focuses on continuing to provide animal care, keeping water circulating, and habitat maintenance, the total will only provide the aquarium with just over two weeks of added emergency operating funding.
“The outpouring of donations, emails, support, and encouragement from the general public has been just incredible. We are so grateful,” said Lasse Gustavsson, president and CEO of Ocean Wise Conservation Association, in a statement. “This is a clear message from the public that the Vancouver Aquarium is a highly valued community, environmental, and educational institution that must continue for generations to come.”
“But we are not out of danger yet… Our message is simple – please continue to support the Vancouver Aquarium and Ocean Wise. We need you now more than ever before. There are lots of ways to help and you can find the way that is right for you.”
In a release, the aquarium states the donations came from 31 countries, with the average amount at $74, the smallest gift being $10, and the largest gift being $5,000. This includes both returning and new donors, and has effectively doubled their donor base.
There has also been an increase in the volume of sales at the Vancouver Aquarium’s online gift shop.
In an effort to help protect its future, reducing operating costs as much as possible, the aquarium is currently a skeleton operation; 60% of 500 staff have been temporarily laid off, the Marine Mammal Rescue Centre near Crab Park is temporarily closed, staff hours have been reduced where it does not impact animal care, all building maintenance has been suspended, capital renovations have been cancelled, utility consumption has been reduced by 60%, field research and conservation efforts have been temporarily curtailed, and voluntary pay cuts have been made by senior executives.
With its dependence on admission, retail, and concession revenues, the aquarium has had a self-sustaining financial model for its Stanley Park attraction and its broad research, conservation, and education work. It does not receive monthly or annual government operating grants.
They have requested emergency financial assistance from senior governments, with Gustavsson noting Ocean Wise has had some “productive talks” with the provincial government.
“Every donation we have received is a vote of support for the Vancouver Aquarium and demonstrates to all levels of government the importance of the Vancouver Aquarium to the Canadian public,” he said.
“Stay tuned for some exciting partnerships and new ways to engage with us. Although you can’t visit us in person at the moment, we will be continuing to engage with our communities including teachers, youth, and ocean lovers around the world.”