Vancouver Aquarium Expansion
Last year my daughter held her birthday party at the Vancouver Aquarium. It was just a couple of days after the arrival of two new dolphins from Japan and spirits were high among staff and visitors alike.
The highly-trained birthday guides combined a tour through the public galleries, a “behind the scenes” salmon feeding opportunity and a good old-fashioned scavenger hunt to make it a party worth remembering.
For many years, our family has held an aquarium membership. On rainy winter days it is a great way to escape the house and for the kids (and adults) to learn more about our unique coastal ecosystem.
We’ve also participated in the Great Canadian Shoreline Clean Up held each summer. This program aims to keep our shores free from materials hazardous to birds, fish and other wildlife- including people.
Needless to say, our family is very supportive of the aquarium’s efforts to revitalize its Stanley Park site with new habitat for the Steller sea lions, sea otters and sea birds, as well as enlarged pools for the belugas. The aquarium is also planning an expansion onto land once occupied by the Stanley Park Zoo and moving the salmon run exhibit that my daughter so enjoyed during her birthday visit.
Being Vancouver, these plans are not without controversy.
The Coalition for No Whales in Captivity is a vocal group that has long pressured the aquarium and Parks Board to develop in a direction that doesn’t include large sea mammals.
The Coalition is aghast that the Parks Board this week voted to rescind an earlier resolution that called for a public referendum before any further aquarium expansion could occur.
Instead the Parks Board has decided that a thorough public consultation process is far more effective than a one-off vote, which could be subject to high-jacking by special interest groups.
Because of the passion around the issue, one could foresee a referendum campaign dominated by shots of sad-looking dolphins behind bars – a very different reality from what one experiences at the well-run Vancouver Aquarium.
Of course, it would have been far easier for the Parks Board commissioners to pass the buck on the aquarium expansion and not take responsibility for the decision.
Instead, they are facing the public directly and will jointly manage a public consultation process which will be marked, I’m sure, with protests and a negative publicity.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Vancouver Aquarium. In those 50 years, it has evolved from a traditional zoo-like experience into a marine science centre known internationally for its commitment to research and conservation.
The expansion before the public is the logical next step on that journey.
You can learn more about the Aquarium’s activities at www.vanaqua.org.
(As seen today in 24 Hours)