The Alberni Aquarium and Stewardship will be re-opening to the public on Monday, June 22.
Port Alberni’s aquarium has been struggling since early March, when the former board announced that fundraising efforts had not been enough to sustain the organization into 2020.
Since that announcement, the new, non-profit Alberni Aquarium Association took over the aquarium, then the COVID-19 pandemic forced the temporary closure of the business.
“We are still struggling, as many businesses and non-profits are,” explained aquarium manager Jenny Fortin. “We have the funds to keep the aquarium going until the end of July. We’re hoping that by opening our doors, we can keep them open past July.”
The aquarium has a “very strict plan” for re-opening, said Fortin, which will be made available on the aquarium’s Facebook page and website. Visitors will be required to enter through the front of the building and exit through the back, following arrows on the floor to stay distanced as they look at the exhibits. All staff members will wear face masks and hand sanitizer will be available throughout the building. The washrooms will be open to staff only, although there are public washrooms available at Harbour Quay’s Spirit Square.
“Most of the hands-on aspects of our exhibits have been removed,” said Fortin. “The touch tanks are closed.”
Over the past few months, the association has been coming up with a number of creative ways to generate funds, with the help of some “very generous community supporters,” said Fortin. Things like tank sponsorships and salmon fry adoption are available for individuals to help keep the animals in the tanks alive. The aquarium was also able to acquire enough grant funding to hire three students to work throughout the summer.
“We’re still looking for creative ways we can make partnerships throughout the community,” Fortin said. “We need some type of big fundraiser to help us get through the summer.”
The aquarium association is also looking at what it can do with the upstairs space above the aquarium. Fortin is looking into the possibility of a “refill centre” where people can refill empty containers of cleaning and hygiene products using a pay-by-weight system.
“It helps our environment by cutting back on plastic, and it’s also a great way to possibly bring in revenue to help support the aquarium, as well,” said Fortin. “We’re looking at goods that everyone needs—things like laundry detergent and hand sanitizer.”
The Aquarium Association currently consists of five board members, as well as a number of “dedicated volunteers on the side,” said Fortin.
“We are looking to increase that number,” Fortin added.
To get involved with the aquarium, or to find out more information, call 250-206-0356. The aquarium’s GoFundMe is also still open and accepting donations.
During the first few days of the aquarium’s opening, admission will be by donation (cash only). Hours will be limited to 2-5 p.m. The gift shop will be open, although visitors are asked to avoid touching the products.