Kaylen Poirier

Kaylen Poirier

Aquarium opens at Harbour Quay

West Coast Aquatic fulfills dream of education centre

The West Coast Aquatic Aquarium and Stewardship Centre at Harbour Quay is open at last, after years of planning and months of renovations.

It hasn’t been an easy ride, according to WCA stewardship executive director Sheena Falconer.

“We’ve had a lot of challenges. Taking the aquarium from design concept and turning into a reality has been a long journey with many ups and downs,” said Falconer.

“We’re just happy that we’re finally coming to the time that we can share it with other people.”

There’s a lot to share inside the aquarium at the former Clock Tower Gallery space.

The interior is painted bright ocean blue and lime green and full of every underwater creature you could hope to see in Barkley Sound, along with a tree carved from a 400-year-old cedar tree that comes from Uchucklesaht territory. The log was donated by Western Forest products.

“Our exhibits are divided into ecosystems.

“We have a freshwater ecosystem exhibit that has chinook and coho salmon fry in it,” said Falconer.

“We’ll be releasing them when they’re ready to go to the ocean.”

The releasing is key to the aquarium and stewardship centre’s main message of stewardship and conservation, rather than just marine creatures on display.

““Everything is catch and release here. We want people to understand that we’re not just randomly taking these animals out of their environment for entertainment, we’re doing it because we think it’s important to deliver a message about these animals’ homes,” said Falconer.

(Story continues below)

Looking to replicate the environment that exists in the Alberni Valley, the aquarium will also have estuary and intertidal exhibits.

“It’s to get people to understand the importance of our local wetlands,” said Falconer.

“We’ve got an intertidal exhibit that explains that zone between ocean and land where a lot of different animals exist.”

Visitors will also get to see something a little below the surface.

“We’ve got a deep ocean tank which features shrimp and prawns, squat lobsters and sea cucumbers.”

Through a partnership with NEPTUNE, the Ocean Networks Canada site on Mallory Drive, the aquarium will have access to underwater footage from the sound too.

“It’ll have streaming video ultimately. It won’t be in place right away, we’ll have the ‘best of’ stuff until we get that set up.”

The facility won’t be all ‘look no touch.’

“We have touch tanks so that people can look at anemone and starfish. Our theme for the aquarium this year is ‘touch the stars’ so come to the Alberni aquarium and touch the stars.”

Falconer hopes that having the centre right in the middle of Port Alberni will help residents and tourists alike get to know their local waters.

“One of the reasons for creating this centre is that we were fundraising so that we could send kids places where they could look at ocean creatures,” said Falconer.

Having sent many classes off to Bamfield and Ucluelet, the organization wondered if there was a better way.

“One day the light came on and we thought why don’t we just have something like this in Port Alberni? We need something like this in Port Alberni because we live right on the ocean waters. It’s critical to us.”

The soft opening on May 1 was a great success, according Falconer.

“It was fantastic. It was really busy,” she said.

With the success of the soft opening, the aquarium will be open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. seven days a week. To keep up with any changes and new programs that will be starting soon, follow West Coast Aquatic on Facebook.

reporter@albernivalleynews.com

facebook.com/albernivalleynews

twitter.com/alberninews

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Kelly McGiffin, left, Dwayne Stern, batboy Jackson McGiffin and Kirk McGiffin are reviving the Port Alberni Cubs—this time as an over-55 baseball team. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)
Port Alberni’s McGiffin brothers revive Cubs baseball at 55-plus

The boys of summer are 55-plus now, but back on the baseball field

The intersection at 10th Avenue and Dunbar Street. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)
Safety improvements planned for Port Alberni intersection

10th Avenue and Dunbar Street is an “intersection of concern” based on incident data

Members of Huu-ay-aht First Nations conducted two checkpoints on Monday, May 10, asking people who enter the territory to respect the sacred principles and to act accordingly while on Huu-ay-aht land. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)
Huu-ay-aht First Nations set up checkpoints in territory

Access restrictions come after forestry incidents

Bulldogs forward Brandon Buhr is knocked off the puck by Grizzlies defenceman Lindsay Reid. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)
BCHL: Alberni Valley Bulldogs beaten back-to-back by Victoria Grizzlies

Victoria Grizzlies named Island Champions while Bulldogs take second place

In 1903, if you were looking north down First Avenue with Alberni in the distance, this is what you would have seen. Scattered houses along River Road are visible, as is the corner of Watson Block building in the lower lefthand corner of the photograph. This photo is part of the 24,000 online collection of the Alberni Valley Museum. View this one and more at https://portalberni.pastperfectonline.com. (PHOTO PN02975 COURTESY ALBERNI VALLEY MUSEUM)
LOOK BACK: Historic street scenes of Port Alberni

Take a peek back in time with the Alberni Valley Museum’s digital archives

A bullet hole is seen in the windshield of an RCMP vehicle approximately 4 km from Vancouver International Airport after a one person was killed during a shooting outside the international departures terminal at the airport, in Richmond, B.C., Sunday, May 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Homicide team IDs man in fatal YVR shooting as police grapple with spate of gang violence

Man, 20, charged in separate fatal shooting Burnaby over the weekend

A scene from the Schoolhouse Squat from October 2018, where Alliance Against Displacement members and supporters occupied the Rutherford Elementary School site, advocating for people experiencing homelessness. (News Bulletin file)
‘Schoolhouse Squat’ activists get conditional discharge in Nanaimo school occupation

Ivan Donald Drury, Tingchun (Listen) Chen sentenced in provincial court in Nanaimo

Laketown Shakedown has been rescheduled for 2022, with options for ticket holders to receive refunds or credit for future events. (File photo)
Sunfest country music bash won’t be shining on B.C. in 2021

Annual Vancouver Island Festival cancelled due to COVID-19, along with Laketown Shakedown

Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation elected chief councillor Moses Martin, who was also Chantel Moore’s grandfather, speaks to media in Port Alberni on Aug. 16, 2020, during a visit from NDP leader Jagmeet Singh following the police shooting of Chantel Moore. (Elena Rardon photo)
Mother of 2 shot by police in critical condition, says B.C. First Nation chief

Community ‘devastated’ by third member of 1,150-person Vancouver Island nation shot in less than a year

B.C. Agriculture Minister Lana Popham promotes the government’s BuyBC food program in 2019. (B.C. government)
Money running out for fresh fruit, vegetables, milk in B.C. schools

‘Looking at ways to support this type of program,’ minister says

(Paul Henderson/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Experts now predict 33.6% rise in B.C. home sales for 2021

BCREA economists also predict home prices to increase by 14.3%

B.C. Auditor General Michael Pickup in 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS
B.C. didn’t effectively manage conservation lands program: auditor general

Michael Pickup says staff had limited approaches to resolving the unauthorized use of the most at-risk conservation lands

The majority of city council votes in favour of this design for a new Salmon Arm flag on Monday, May 10, 2021. (City of Salmon Arm image)
Majority of council salutes new flag for Salmon Arm

Two councillors raise concerns about logo being too corporate for a flag

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Most Read