The Vancouver Aquarium is making a bit of a splash today, following the federal government’s announcement of $2 million in emergency operating funding for the facility.
This will go towards supporting the essential service operations within the aquarium, specifically animal care and habitat maintenance.
While it will certainly help the aquarium, the level of funding provided is only enough to extend the aquarium’s operations by just under two months, with essential operating costs exceeding $1 million per month.
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“We are still fighting for the Vancouver Aquarium’s long-term survival, but this support from Western Economic Diversification Canada is crucial,” said Lasse Gustavsson, president and CEO of Ocean Wise Conservation Association, the not-for-profit organization that owns and operates the Vancouver Aquarium.
“We are hopeful that the community will continue to support the 64-year-old Vancouver Aquarium, by buying a ticket and coming back to visit us.”
It officially reopened its doors to the public today, June 26, with visitors required to purchase their tickets online in advance, and select a specific date and time for entry. Enhanced health safety measures supporting physical distancing, as well as cleansing and sanitization, are in place.
Additionally, all visitors must wear a face mask or covering, except for children under the age of three. Masks can be purchased at the gift shop for those who require one.
The aquarium’s reopening is timed with the Vancouver Park Board’s decision to reopen Stanley Park to all cars. Vehicle access to the aquarium and the parking lots that service the attraction are unaffected and remain fully open.
Since it shut down on March 17 in response to the escalating health crisis, the aquarium has seen nearly all of its revenues — largely from admissions — disappear. It also laid off 331 non-essential staff, approximately 60% of its workforce, and suspended maintenance projects, closed the Marine Mammal Rescue Centre near Crab Park in downtown, and reviewed the feasibility of some of its research, conservation, and education programs.
As of April 23, the aquarium directly received $600,000 in donations, which is enough to sustain about three weeks of operations. A partnership with the Vancouver Whitecaps also resulted in the sale of tens of thousands of branded face masks, with proceeds going back to the aquarium.
And under a partnership with Daily Hive, in under 48 hours, the aquarium raised over $157,000 for the Marine Mammal Rescue Centre, which has allowed for the reopening of the animal hospital this summer.
Other initiatives are being planned, but the aquarium remains in a precarious position with a permanent closure still a very real possibility.
“While COVID-19 has had a serious impact on tourism, this significant support from Western Economic Diversification Canada will help the aquarium keep delighting visitors from across the Lower Mainland and around the world,” said Melanie Joly, federal minister responsible for Western Economic Diversification Canada.
“Our message to the tourism industry is clear: we’re working with you to support good jobs and help BC tourism come back strong.”