Rediscovering the Discovery Passage Aquarium

From left, Aquarium Interpreters Jessica Holden, Brianna Marcoux and Anna Nickoloff post for a photo at the Discovery Passage Aquarium on July 22, 2020. They offer knowledge on the many species in the current collection at the catch-and-release aquarium in Campbell River. Photo by Marissa Tiel – Campbell River Mirror
Salmon stickers on the floor of Campbell River’s Discovery Passage Aquarium act as physical distancing reminders for guests visiting the facility this summer. Photo by Marissa Tiel – Campbell River Mirror
A red sea urchin is pictured in the Discovery Passage Aquarium’s touch tank. While the touch tanks are closed this year due to COVID-19 pandemic guidelines at the aquarium, the tank’s low height allows kids to get a close view of the creatures living there for the summer. Photo by Marissa Tiel – Campbell River Mirror
Sea pens are pictured in their tank at the Discovery Passage Aquarium in Campbell River, B.C. on July 22, 2020. Photo by Marissa Tiel – Campbell River Mirror
A silver spotted sculpin is pictured in its tank at the Discovery Passage Aquarium in Campbell River, B.C. on July 22, 2020. Photo by Marissa Tiel – Campbell River Mirror
Plumose anemone are seen in a tank at the Discovery Passage Aquarium in Campbell River, B.C. on July 22, 2020. Photo by Marissa Tiel – Campbell River Mirror
A grunt sculpin peeks out of an empty barnacle in its tank at the Discovery Passage Aquarium in Campbell River, B.C. on July 22, 2020. Grunt sculpins’ beaks are shaped like the end of barnacles allowing them to take shelter inside and with only their snouts peeking out, they look like closed barnacles. Photo by Marissa Tiel – Campbell River Mirror
The main attraction for many people visiting the Discovery Passage Aquarium in Campbell River is the giant Pacific octopus. The aquarium recently collected this specimen who will spend the rest of the summer at the aquarium before being released back into the wild this fall. Photo by Marissa Tiel – Campbell River Mirror
The strawberry anemone tank is one of the more colourful exhibits at the Discovery Passage Aquarium in Campbell River, B.C. on July 22, 2020. Photo by Marissa Tiel – Campbell River Mirror

Have you ever visited Campbell River’s fishing pier after work, walked past the closed aquarium and wished it was still open?

New this season, from Mondays to Thursdays, it is open for extended hours from 10 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. The extended hours are possible thanks to volunteer interpreters working in the space.

Aquarium Staff Interpreter Brianna Marcoux said the extended hours have gotten a good response from the community.

“That’s been going really well,” she said.

The extended hours aren’t the only new thing happening at the aquarium this year. The space got off to a late start due to the pandemic, but has rebounded with safety guidelines for staff and visitors alike.

RELATED: Sidney aquarium names new octopus after Dr. Bonnie Henry

Staff wear masks while working in the aquarium and the space is capped at eight guests. Guests asked to clean their hands upon entry, to follow the physically distanced salmon stickers on the floor and to refrain from touching the glass of the tanks.

“We’re adjusting well to our new protocols and the public has been really good about following safety protocols within the aquarium,” said Marcoux. “Parents have been really good about telling their kids, ‘Oh, don’t touch the glass,’ which is awesome and we really appreciate that.”

The aquarium, which captures specimens at the beginning and the season and releases them in the fall, has all of its usual specimens this year, including Marcoux’s favourite: Puget Sound king crabs. Staff recently welcomed its piece de resistance: a giant Pacific octopus.

Staff haven’t come up with a name for him yet, but are asking the public to help them choose between “Ripple” or “Ringo” via a poll on the aquarium’s Facebook page.

Story continues below.

“He’s been settling in really well,” said Marcoux.

This year, aquarium manager Ricky Belanger fashioned the octopus’ den out of a flower pot, which allows guests to see him even when he’s resting inside.

And while the touch tank has been converted into a look tank this year, to avoid any soap or hand sanitizer residue getting into the tank, it still has specimens and is at a great height for kids hoping to get a closer look.

RELATED: Vancouver Aquarium, at risk of permanently closing, raises $600K in donations

Marcoux is hoping people will visit the aquarium.

“I think the aquarium looks awesome this year. Our exhibits are super awesome. Each one is totally different. We’ve got lots of different species to see.” she said. “Despite everything, everything is looking awesome.”

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marissa.tiel@campbellrivermirror.com

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