Ucluelet Aquarium celebrates “best” season to date

Ucluelet Aquarium celebrates “best” season to date

“We had some wonderful, really engaged visitors,” said curator Laura Griffith Cochrane.

A bittersweet celebration filled Ucluelet’s Whiskey Dock on Saturday as the West Coast gathered to send their local aquarium’s critters back into the wild.

Dozens of locals and visitors were lined up, buckets in hand, to participate in the Ucluelet Aquarium’s Dec. 7 annual release event to give each creature a chance to fulfill its biological destiny.

READ MORE: Ucluelet Aquarium wraps up season with release day event

The release marked the end of another successful season at the Ucluelet Aquarium, with curator Laura Griffith Cochrane telling the Westerly News “it was our best one to date.”

“We had some wonderful, really engaged visitors,” Griffith Cochrane beamed. “A lot of the visitors that arrived here were returning and were excited to learn more and to expand on what they learned on their last visit.”

Along with generating return visits from locals and tourists eager to check out the constantly changing exhibits made possible by the aquarium’s unique catch and release model, Griffith Cochrane said the popular community facility also enjoyed a steady swarm of first time visitors who had read about the aquarium and traveled to Ucluelet to experience it.

She dubbed the past season “The Year of the Skate” and explained that one of the most eye catching draws came by way of a skate casing discovered in August 2018 that hatched inside the aquarium this summer.

“The major animal highlight for us was the hatching of our little skates,” she said. “We weren’t sure if [the casing] was fertilized, viable eggs, but it turned out that it was and we were able to create a viewing window in the egg casing so that we could watch the development of the young skates all the way until June when they hatched.”

Skates gestate for about 9-11 months and, after waiting to see if the eggs had been fertilized, the aquarium was delighted to see three baby skates emerge.

The delightful looking creatures, which feature happy-face-like appearances, seem biologically designed to delight and instantly became an internet sensation for the aquarium.

“They’re so cute…They have little openings close to their gills on the underside of their face which are filled with chemo receptors, acting like nostrils, so it’s just luck, well physiology, that the position of those look like eyes,” she said. “We’ve had a number of things reproduce in the aquarium in the past, but they were definitely the cutest. Whenever we posted something online, we got huge responses, lots of people engaged and interested and asking questions and wanting to learn more.”

The Ucluelet Aquarium’s catch and release model hasn’t just educated and awed ocean animal fans since its inception in 2004, it’s also inspired a global movement towards adopting the model as similar facilities are popping up across the globe. That movement was on full display as the Ucluelet Aquarium’s 2019 season kicked off with the first-ever international mini-aquarium conference welcoming delegates from around the world to network and learn in Ucluelet.

“It was a really valuable opportunity for us to share some of our success stories and to learn from others,” Griffith Cochrane said.

READ MORE: Ucluelet Aquarium model spawning inspiration worldwide

She said the catch and release community aquarium model is still growing its legs, so opportunities for the small, passionate, teams trying to start them to meet and learn from each other is vital.

“Our hope is that this will become an ongoing conference that will take place every couple of years. Because we’re all small societies, budget constraints exist for all of us. So, it’s not something that we could do every year. We hope that this will become a regular thing that we could all contribute to,” she said.

Rather than see each other as competition, community aquariums are supporting each other’s efforts to sprout appreciation and respect for ocean habitats.

“Community based aquariums can represent local issues. We can talk about ecosystems that are important to us for culture, economy and recreation…It is important that people have the opportunity to learn about how fragile and valuable ocean ecosystems are and so, the more opportunities people have to learn, the better,” she said.

“One of the beautiful things about small aquariums is that each one can have important conversations and the network of us together creates a really large, powerful voice…A community aquarium is a wonderful way to bring educational opportunities to isolated communities like our own, a great way to represent local issues and a great way to assist in protecting local ecosystems.”

READ MORE: VIDEO: Ucluelet Aquarium surveying migration of microplastics

She added that the aquarium is proving that its model is economically viable, provided it has colossal community support.

“An aquarium is an expensive place to run. We run pumps 24 hours a day, tanks are expensive to maintain and the maintenance requires a lot of staff time, but we also have a very supportive and dedicated community and some wonderful sponsors and donors and that really makes up the difference,” she said.

“We’re growing and we’re really excited that we get to live and work in this community. It means a lot just to me personally to have meaningful work and to be able to live out here…I can’t imagine us without our community. That’s also why, I think, each new mini-aquarium will be so different, because it’s not just representative of the species; it’s also representative of the community. We could not operate without our supportive community. Between the volunteers, the directors, the sponsors and the donations that come through, we just wouldn’t exist without Ucluelet.”



andrew.bailey@westerlynews.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

READ MORE: Ucluelet Aquarium swings open new season

Just Posted

Stz’uminus Elder George Harris, Ladysmith Mayor Aaron Stone, and Stz’uminus Chief Roxanne Harris opened the ceremony. (Cole Schisler photo)
Red dresses to be hung from Ladysmith to Oyster Bay, showing solidarity against racism

Leaders from Stz’uminus First Nation and the Town of Ladysmith hung new dresses on Sat. April 17

Orca 1
Orcas: Our Shared Future finally surfaces at Royal B.C. Museum

Museum dives into the world of the killer whale as delayed feature exhibition now open

Nanaimo playwright Anne Nesbitt is presenting a staged reading of her play about Indigenous conservationist Gertrude Bernard, also known as Anahareo (from left). (Photo courtesy Andrew Nesbitt/Riding Mountain National Park)
Island playwright tells the story of Indigenous woman who ‘saved the beaver’

Anne Nesbitt presents ‘Anahareo’ as part of TheatreOne staged reading series

Ladysmith’s Taylor Walters received the Terry Fox Humanitarian Award and is hard at work pursuing her Bachelor’s Degree in Human-Computer Interaction at Quest University. (Submitted photo)
Island teen’s passion for science and technology equality helps fund her education

Ladysmith’s Taylor Walters one of 16 Canadians honoured with Terry Fox Humanitarian Award

Danita Bilozaze and her daughter Dani in Comox. Photo by Karen McKinnon
Island woman makes historic name change for truth and reconciliation

Becomes first person in Canada to be issued new passport under the TRC Calls to Action

Vancouver resident Beryl Pye was witness to a “concerning,” spontaneous dance party that spread throughout social groups at Kitsilano Beach on April 16. (Screen grab/Beryl Pye)
VIDEO: Dance party erupts at Vancouver’s Kitsilano Beach to the dismay of onlookers

‘It was a complete disregard for current COVID-19 public health orders,’ says Vancouver resident Beryl Pye

The B.C. Centre for Disease Control has listed Harbour Air and Air Canada flights to and from Nanaimo, from April 3, 4 and 12, on its list of flights with COVID-19. (News Bulletin file)
COVID-19 cases reported for Nanaimo flights, says disease control centre

Nanaimo flights for April 3, 4 and 12 listed on BCCDC’s list of flights with COVID-19

A Parksville Fire Department’s firefighter hoses down the facade of a Parksville Heritage Centre building after it caught fire on Friday afternoon (April 16). (Michael Briones photo)
Fire crews, roofers work to douse building fire in Parksville

Damage was minimal and workers escaped injury

Lord Tweedsmuir’s Tremmel States-Jones jumps a player and the goal line to score a touchdown against the Kelowna Owls in 2019. The face of high school football, along with a majority of other high school sports, could significantly change if a new governance proposal is passed at the B.C. School Sports AGM May 1. (Malin Jordan)
Power struggle: New governance model proposed for B.C. high school sports

Most commissions are against the new model, but B.C. School Sports (BCSS) and its board is in favour

Pall Bearers carrying the coffin of the Duke of Edinburgh, followed by the Prince of Wales, left and Princess Anne, right, into St George’s Chapel for his funeral, at Windsor Castle, in Windsor, England, Saturday April 17, 2021. (Danny Lawson/Pool via AP)
Trudeau announces $200K donation to Duke of Edinburgh award as Prince Philip laid to rest

A tribute to the late prince’s ‘remarkable life and his selfless service,’ the Prime Minister said Saturday

B.C. homeowners are being urged to take steps to prepare for the possibility of a flood by moving equipment and other assets to higher ground. (J.R. Rardon)
‘Entire province faces risk’: B.C. citizens urged to prepare for above-average spring flooding

Larger-than-normal melting snowpack poses a threat to the province as warmer weather touches down

Vancouver-based Doubleview Gold Corp. is developing claims in an area north of Telegraph Creek that occupies an important place in Tahltan oral histories, said Chad Norman Day, president of the Tahltan Central Government. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO)
B.C. Indigenous nation opposes mineral exploration in culturally sensitive area

There’s “no way” the Tahltan would ever support a mine there, says Chad Norman Day, president of its central government

Stz’uminus Elder George Harris, Ladysmith Mayor Aaron Stone, and Stz’uminus Chief Roxanne Harris opened the ceremony. (Cole Schisler photo)
Symbolic red dresses rehung along B.C. highway after vandals tore them down

Leaders from Stz’uminus First Nation and the Town of Ladysmith hung new dresses on Sat. April 17

A Western toadlet crosses the centre line of Elk View Road in Chilliwack on Aug. 26, 2010. A tunnel underneath the road has since been installed to help them migrate cross the road. Saturday, April 24 is Save the Frogs Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Progress File)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of April 18 to 24

Save the Frogs Day, Love Your Thighs Day and Scream Day are all coming up this week

Most Read