Two boys exploring the touch pool in the Shaw Centre for the Salish Sea. (Courtesy of Michelle Nicholson)

Buttercup the octopus grabbing Island fans of World Oceans Week

Octopus education and more continues at at Shaw Centre for the Salish Sea in Sidney

The Shaw Centre for the Salish Sea kicked off a week of events in Sidney to celebrate World Oceans Day.

In a spirit of collaboration and to spread the fun, the centre hosted 600 visitors in an event supported by 19 community organizations on June 2. They will then reciprocate when some of those groups host their own event this weekend, on June 9 at Fisherman’s Wharf.

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The aquarium and learning centre were both open to the public as stalls spilled out from the building and occupied Beacon Park and the grassy areas nearby. There was storytelling, a science show, a marine themed photo booth and hands-on interpretation from a variety of organizations about the Salish Sea Bioregion. One of the highlights was a portable touch tank that contained hardy invertebrates that live in inter tidal zones. Sea cucumbers, sea stars and anemones were available to be handled, chosen as they are robust and don’t mind being out the water for short periods.

The day was also used to kick off the centre’s 10th anniversary celebratory activity program, as it opened its doors in June 2009. A birthday party wouldn’t be complete without cake and staff members created two imaginative cakes celebrating the milestone and World Oceans Day. One had an octopus on the front and 10 sea stars instead of 10 candles. Sidney Mayor Cliff McNeil-Smith was on hand to serve visitors.

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As part of the celebrations, people got the chance to note down their favourite memories from the centre’s last decade and were asked to write their hopes for the next 10 years. Staff say many of the memories involved the centre’s summer camps and the past octupi they have housed.

The latest octopus, Buttercup, was the star of the show. She was recently named through a vote with the two most popular names being buttercup and licorice. Buttercup narrowly won thanks to a late surge of children’s votes. Pauline Finn, Executive Director of the Shaw Centre for the Salish Sea, provides an update on Buttercup.

“We’re always learning and so are our Giant Pacific Octopus’,” she says, adding, “They are super intelligent critters and our aquarists are very deliberate about providing enrichment for them and having them be really challenged. We’re almost training them to hunt because we will, of course, release her. Professional aquarists all over the world share ideas and we want these animals to be really stimulated.”

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Recently the aquarium asked parents to provide toys for the octopus and received some great ones that staff adapted to be octopus friendly. Buttercup’s favourite is a little plastic boat that the aquarists put food inside so she has to work out how to access it, simulating problem solving in the search for food in the wild. Buttercup and her boat resemble a miniature version of the kraken wrapping around ships from stories of yore.

A program of summer events is scheduled, focusing on summer camps and octopus talks, for World Oceans Day activities taking place at Fisherman’s Wharf on Sunday, June 9 at 11 a.m. For more information visit salishseacentre.org.



nick.murray@peninsulanewsreview.com

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Buttercup playing with her favourite toy and looking like a kraken. (Courtesy of Michelle Nicholson)

The Canadian Orca Rescue Society brought two giant inflatable whales to the event. (Courtesy of Michelle Nicholson)

Mayor Cliff McNeil-Smith serving cake to a youngster. (Courtesy of Michelle Nicholson)

International students from Brazil and Mexico, who currently attend Lambrick Park Secondary, displaying their photobooth bookmarks. (From left) Megumi, Pamela, Anna and Alexandra. (Courtesy of Michelle Nicholson)

Two siblings having fun at the event. (Courtesy of Michelle Nicholson)

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