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Turning the World on Its Head: The Vancouver Aquarium Expansion is Complete

The Vancouver Aquarium unveiled its first phase of expansion at an official ceremony on Friday. The $45 million project is the most significant addition to the Aquarium since its doors opened, 58 years ago.

The new, 55,000-square-foot addition includes a new entrance gallery and courtyard, with a 360-degree digital screen and a massive four metre plus diameter globe. The globe is turned on its head to bring more significance to the Polar Regions and Canada. The flipped view is especially visible for the wee ones.

Other new exhibits include a school of cichlids from Lake Malawi in Africa, a Red Sea coral reef and a Jamaican fruit bat exhibit (keep those necklines covered).

The Aquarium has also focused their attention on local habitats, such as the Gulf Islands. The Pacific coast exhibit now features a school of coho salmon.

Additional plans promise expansion of the beluga and dolphin tanks.

John Nightingale, the Aquarium’s CEO, is especially proud of the new project. He hopes that the new educational opportunities will out shine the negative press that the aquarium is receiving over captivity issues. “Our aim is to reach and inspire more visitors to engage with issues affecting our aquatic and ocean environments and to take personal action that will help save our ecosystems and the wildlife that depend on them,” says Nightingale.

Five Reasons to Support the Vancouver Aquarium

So you saw the documentary “Blackfish” and now, all you can think about, are the poor whales penned in at the Vancouver Aquarium. What evil organization would confine such beautiful animals of the north to such a small saltwater tank?

Well, before you start organizing Facebook groups and public rallies, here are a few facts to consider:

1. As of 1996, The Vancouver Aquarium only adopts marine mammals that are born in another aquarium or were rescued and deemed non-releasable by a government authority. The last marine mammal ‘collected’ by the Vancouver Aquarium was Aurora, the beluga. Aurora has been with the Aquarium since 1990.

2. No one is making a profit on the fish and mammals held at the Vancouver Aquarium. The admission cost is high, but all that revenue goes towards maintaining a world-class facility and supporting other marine programs like ocean pollution research, marine mammal rescue centres and the Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup.

If you are worried about costs, consider a family membership. A family membership will grant two adults and up to four children unlimited entry to the facility for one or two years. Think of all those rainy weekends… Wouldn’t you rather have your kids learning first hand about life ‘under the sea’ than watching “The Little Mermaid” for the 47th time.

3. Education is paramount at the Vancouver Aquarium. If your child goes to public school in the Lower Mainland, he or she will probably visit the Vancouver Aquarium at least a half a dozen times before they graduate high school. Each visit will include talks and information from trained staff that will inspire a lifetime of marine life interest. Having a world class facility at our backdoor means that are children are far more likely to take up the torch for preserving and researching conservation methods for marine life around the world.

4. Research done by aquarium officials leads to advanced studies that are continued with marine life outside of the aquarium. These studies help scientists better understand marine life and the changing environment. This is especially important for northern ecosystems. Studying beluga whales in captivity helps scientists find solutions for approaching global warming challenges like the massive reduction on sea ice in northern Canada.

5. Rescued animals that have been hurt and deemed non-releasable need a home and constant care. The Vancouver Aquarium and other similar marine facilities offer this care 24/7. Instead of putting down or releasing a marine animal that has an extremely low chance of survival, the Aquarium can nurse the animal back to health. During the recovery period, thousands of visitors can enjoy the presence of the marine guest. The Vancouver Aquarium rehabilitates and releases about 100 marine animals back into the wild each year.


Ocean Wise, a program created and continued by the Vancouver Aquarium, helps consumers make informed decisions about their culinary choices in regards to sustainable seafood. The Ocean Wise label lets know that an item has been harvested responsibly. This transfer of information will have you sleeping better about your seafood choices.

Vancouver Holiday Spectacular (2)

Continuing with our Christmas event guide, here are five more family-friendly events for the holidays:

5. Karaoke Christmas Trolly Tours

  • “It’s a beautiful night in the neighbourhood, a beautiful night in the neighbourhood, won’t you be mine…” If boating isn’t your thing, try the Vancouver Trolly Company for your fix of Christmas musical classics.

4. Vancouver Christmas Market

  • Quickly becoming a tradition on the Vancouver winter holiday scene, the Christmas Market is the place to go for holiday food with a European flair. You can also treat yourself to a glass of mulled wine. Take in some traditional music and let the kids have a spin on the the classic carousel.

3. The Christmas Train in Stanley Park

  • An annual event for the whole family. The theme for this year’s music and light display is “Charlie Brown’s Christmas.” Tickets online are already sold-out, so come down early on the day-of to purchase your ticket. And don’t forget to bring a few extra dollars to give to the Firefighters Burn Fund. The train runs till January 5th.

2. The Nutcracker at Queen Elizabeth Theatre

  • Tchaikovsky’s classic ballet will be performed by the Ballet BC Company at the QE Theatre from December 28th to December 31st. Don’t miss out.

1. Luminescence at the Vancouver Aquarium

  • This brand new exhibit at the Vancouver Aquarium focuses on the natural light produced by fish who live in complete darkness. The exhibit hosts a deep-sea dive interactive film as well as the ever-popular electric eel lit Christmas tree.

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