BRITISH COLUMBIA

Victoria Harbour Floating Aquarium Closed After 40 Years

10/17/2013 04:04 EDT | Updated 01/23/2014 06:58 EST
A long-standing marine attraction in Victoria's inner harbour is closing today after 40 years.

The Pacific Undersea Gardens, an aquarium located in a 150-foot vessel, was opened to the public in 1969 and saw about 83,000 visitors annually.

Oak Bay Marine Group, which owns the Pacific Undersea Gardens, announced Wednesday that the aging facility is closing and will be removed from the harbour in the near future, saying that desperately needed upgrades would cost too much.

"Quite frankly, it's dated and it would require significant investment to bring it up to just a basic standard that Oak Bay [Marine Group] would be proud of and that the city of Victoria would be proud of," said Susan Barcham, spokeswoman for the attraction's owner.

Barcham said that a trend towards large, high-tech aquariums that offer more hands-on experiences has put financial pressure on the Pacific Undersea Gardens, but building a bigger facility is not feasible for the company. A larger facility is also not allowed under their current lease.

Bob Wright, the founder of Oak Bay Marine Group who died in April of this year, hired an architect to draw up plans for a contemporary new facility before his death, but the plans were never realized.

Over its lifespan, the Pacific Undersea Gardens has been home to  about 5,000 marine creatures, including Armstrong, a giant Pacific octopus who gained notoriety during his stint as the star of a dive show, a wolf eel and about 1,000 salmon, crabs and sea stars.

The aquarium's owners said they will be working with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and an independent veterinarian to release or relocate all its current sea life.

Eight employees who work at the facility will be assigned new positions within the Oak Bay Marine Group and have access to a career counsellor if they wish.

The water site where the vessel is currently located is leased by the Provincial Capital Commission, who say they are happy are negotiate an early end to their current lease agreement with Oak Bay Marine Group. They have not indicated what might become of the site once the vessel is removed.

The tourist attraction is only the most recent in a string of closures in Victoria, with the tropical exhibit in Crystal Garden and the Royal London Wax Museum both closing in recent years.

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