Amira Strain, the new manager of the Alberni Aquarium, kneels beside the aquarium’s salmon tank. The aquarium is currently holding a contest to name the salmon. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)

Amira Strain, the new manager of the Alberni Aquarium, kneels beside the aquarium’s salmon tank. The aquarium is currently holding a contest to name the salmon. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)

Vancouver Island aquarium struggles to stay afloat

Shift in leadership occurred just before pandemic hit

Port Alberni’s aquarium is still struggling to stay afloat through the coronavirus pandemic.

The 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, a new non-profit Alberni Aquarium Association took over the aquarium.

However, the COVID-19 pandemic has complicated matters.

“With the current COVID-19 pandemic, we have been facing a little bit of financial issues,” aquarium manager Amira Strain explained during a meeting of Port Alberni city council on Monday, Nov. 23. With the recent rise in cases, she said, the aquarium has seen a “drastic decrease” in visitors, and the the doors were closed to the public at the end of November.

With the doors closed, the aquarium is now focusing on virtual tours.

“We’ve developed virtual tours for school groups, homeschooled children and people who want to learn a little bit more about the animals in our ocean,” Strain explained in a later interview. “It’s a new way to keep the aquarium in the school curriculum.”

With these tours, Strain will hold a video conference with visitors where she goes over the animals in all the aquarium’s tanks. Using a grant from 100+ Women Who Care earlier this year, the aquarium was able to create a new exhibit titled “The Small Things,” which takes a look at the different natural biomes locally.

But because the association is a new society, they have had difficulties applying for grants and other sources of funding.

Strain asked city council in November for a rent freeze on their city-owned building at Harbour Quay.

“We have been looking at our books, and if we don’t receive help from the city, we will not be able to continue to be in business past December,” Strain told council.

However, council pointed out that other businesses in the community are struggling during the pandemic, too.

“It’s really hard for me to give that kind of support, when there’s existing businesses in the same situation,” said Councillor Cindy Solda.

“Before we consider any direct subsidies, I think that we have to encourage you to apply to the federal programs first, just to keep a level playing field,” said Mayor Sharie Minions. “I think we all want to see the aquarium be successful, we just have to make sure that we are diligent with the limited funds that we do have.”

The aquarium association is now applying to the federal government for COVID-19 rental relief, and Strain is working with city staff to release the aquarium’s upstairs space in order to cut monthly rental rates. The space is currently unused, except for storing the aquarium’s saltwater resevoir.

In the meantime, the aquarium association has found a few creative ways to fundraise.

Earlier this month, the aquarium held a raffle to name the building’s newest residents—an axolotl, gunnel fish and salmon.

An online auction is currently taking place on the Alberni Aquarium and Stewardship Centre Facebook page. Bidders can place their bids by commenting on the items up until Saturday, Dec. 19 at midnight.

Wooden Christmas ornaments made by a local family are available at Animal Ark, with proceeds going towards the aquarium, as well as Special Olympics and the SPCA.

The aquarium is always accepting tank sponsors. It also offers an “Adopt a Salmon” program and an Alberni Aquarium Cookbook was launched this summer, with funds going towards the new association.

For more information about how you can contribute, visit www.alberniaquarium.ca or call 250-724-3600.

“We’re hoping to be able to open in the new year,” said Strain. “It depends how the pandemic is looking and if we survive until then. We’re hoping to get a source of money coming in so we can continue to be able to feed our animals.”



elena.rardon@albernivalleynews.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

AquariumPORT ALBERNI

Just Posted

Black Press file photo
RCMP seek suspect in Vancouver Island-wide crime spree

Crimes stretched from Deep Bay to Qualicum, Ladysmith, Chemainus and Youbou

Things are looking up for Vancouver Island as zero COVID-19 cases have been reported for the first time since October. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Island records zero new COVID-19 cases for the first time since October

For the first time since October, the province is reporting zero new… Continue reading

Letters to the editor.
Many questions emerge from opioid dealer’s sentence

Leniency hard to fathom, especially after judge’s harsh words

The Crofton Pool will reopen July 2. (File photo by Don Bodger)
Lifeguard services returning to Fuller Lake Park, Crofton Pool

Summer schedule starting after hiatus in 2020 due to the pandemic

Letters to the editor.
Forestry balance can be found

All or none is not a viable solution

A small pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins pass by close to shore in Campbell River June 16, 2021. Still capture from video courtesy of Kimberly Hart
VIDEO: Dolphin sunset captured from Vancouver Island shore

Spectacular setting for view of travelling pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins

Karl and Stephanie Ann Johanson were thrilled to spot a pair of Sandhill Cranes in the Panama Flats this month, an unusual appearance for such birds. (Photo by Stephanie Ann Johanson)
WATCH: Sandhill cranes an unusual, joyful sight in South Island parkland

These birds don’t often touch down on their way between northern B.C. and Mexico

Police are asking for public assistance in locating Anthony Graham who has been charged with the murders of Kamloops brothers Carlo and Erick Fryer. (RCMP photo)
2 charged, suspect at large in killings of B.C. brothers linked to gang activity: RCMP

Kamloops brothers Erick and Carlo Fryer were found deceased in May on a remote Okanagan road

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

(V.I. Trail/Google Maps)
Now 90% complete, Vancouver Island trail forges new funding parnership

Victoria Foundation takes on Vancouver Island Trail Association; fund valued at $40,000

Albert Health Minister Tyler Shandro and Alberta Premier Jason Kenney unveil an opening sign after speaking about the Open for Summer Plan and next steps in the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, in Edmonton, Friday, June 18, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta 1st province in Canada to lift all COVID-19 public health restrictions

70.2% of eligible citizens 12 and older in the province have received a dose of the vaccine

Fraser Health registered nurse Ramn Manan draws a dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine into a syringe at a walk-up vaccination clinic at Bear Creek Park, in Surrey, B.C., on Monday, May 17, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
‘Honour our fathers’ with COVID-19 vaccine protection, B.C. urges

109 new cases Friday, 75 per cent of 12 and up immunized

Freighters have becomd abundant in the Trincomali Channel on the east side of Thetis Island.
Nanaimo ponders taking on waste from nearby anchored freighters

Vancouver-based Tymac petitioning the Regional District of Nanaimo to accept waste at its landfill

Most Read