The Discovery Passage Aquarium in Campbell River is set to reopen in May with upgrades and different sea life expected.
The aquarium will be opening on May 21, earlier than the last two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a release. They say the earlier opening allows the team to gather more sea creatures, like hermit crabs and other species of fish, that are not around later in the season.
This year will welcome a new creature to the party, bringing with it a new theme, according to aquarium manager and curator Ricky Belanger.
“We can expect a healthy, happy octopus,” he said. “Usually every year there is a theme to the upgrades to the infrastructure we have at the aquarium. But this year we’ve put a lot of work into the behind-the-scenes infrastructure.”
Belanger said they have added a reciprocating cooler to keep the water, specifically for the octopus, comfortable. The change comes after last summer’s heat dome had an unfortunate effect on the aquarium’s displays.
“The heatwave on June 28 forced our hand and we had to release a great deal of our collection because the water that we were pumping into the aquarium from the sea was too warm for a lot of our animals,” he said.
Belanger says he feels fortunate to continue with the aquarium after the pandemic was hard for island facilities, with the Port Alberni Aquarium closing.
However, the pandemic gave the aquarium a lot of time to reflect on what they were doing well and perhaps not so well, according to Belanger.
“I can’t say I’m very grateful for the pandemic, but we aren’t letting any crises go to waste here,” he said.
With the aquarium emerging from the pandemic, Belanger says he’s looking forward to having a more normal season, adding visitors will be able to come to the aquarium with a little less anxiety.
The early opening will allow for more volunteers to work at the aquarium in July and August with extended hours.
Discovery Passage Aquarium will be open from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Thursday through Monday in May and June. They will be open seven days a week with hours extended to 7:30 p.m. Thursday to Monday until the end of Labour Day weekend.
More information about the aquarium can be found on their website.