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experience the aquarium


Step into the Nicholas Sonntag Marine Education Centre
and explore the beautiful underwater world of Howe Sound.

Satisfy your curiosity and peer into the “eyes” of a scallop. No need for scuba gear.

Visit frequently to see the evolution of 30 exhibits developed with a "collect and release" model and interactive displays.

Meet local marine life and learn about their role in healthy ocean ecosystems. Through awareness, we promote the protection of the marine environments on the Coast and beyond.

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experience the aquarium


Step into the Nicholas Sonntag Marine Education Centre
and explore the beautiful underwater world of Howe Sound.

Satisfy your curiosity and peer into the “eyes” of a scallop. No need for scuba gear.

Visit frequently to see the evolution of 30 exhibits developed with a "collect and release" model and interactive displays.

Meet local marine life and learn about their role in healthy ocean ecosystems. Through awareness, we promote the protection of the marine environments on the Coast and beyond.

GPM skyview with marina.jpg

about Us


The Nicholas Sonntag Marine Education
Centre opened in Summer 2017. The Centre is located in the heart of the Gibsons Public Market, adjacent to Howe Sound, a network of fjords situated northwest of Vancouver, BC. 

about Us


The Nicholas Sonntag Marine Education
Centre opened in Summer 2017. The Centre is located in the heart of the Gibsons Public Market, adjacent to Howe Sound, a network of fjords situated northwest of Vancouver, BC. 

The Centre is modelled after similar and successful facilities: the Ucluelet Aquarium Society, the Discovery Passage SeaLife Society in Campbell River and the St. John’s Aquarium Incorporated in Petty Harbour Newfoundland. 

On March 17th 2017 the Gibsons Marine Education Centre (Society) was formed to advance education by establishing and operating a public marine education centre on the Sunshine Coast of British Columbia and to protect the environment for the benefit of the public by undertaking projects that sustain the marine ecosystem of Howe Sound, British Columbia and beyond.

The Society has secured a facility at the Gibsons Public Market in Gibsons BC. Gibsons Community Building Society (“GCBS”), a not-for-profit organization, developed and operates the Gibsons Public Market and was initially the driving force behind this initiative to create the Centre.

The Society’s volunteer Board of Directors, the Centre’s volunteer committee and expert partners have collective experiences in aquarium start-up, public education, non-profit management, marine research, specimen collections, volunteer management, fundraising, and integrated coastal zone management. They share a passion for marine education and see the untapped potential of an organization like this and the immeasurable impact it could have on our residents, visitors and blue planet. 

After a short stay at the Centre, animals will be released back to their environment. This forward-thinking “collect-and-release” policy is unique to only three other aquarium societies in Canada, making the Centre a leader in the field of ocean conservation practices and animal care standards. "Release days" will be memorable events organized with community groups and volunteers.

We are confident that the Centre will positively impact those who enter, the organizations we partner with, the community as a whole and the oceans.

    Our focus is to ensure that our projects improve the conditions that support sustainability of our local ecosystems for the benefit of current and future generations relying on our local waters for their food supply, livelihood, recreation and enjoyment.

    Interested in volunteering with us? We'd love to hear from you.

    JOIN OUR TEAM!

    If you have the following qualifications and a willingness to learn, are enthusiastic, positive, motivated and team-oriented, we are looking for you to join our team! Details here.

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    activities


    In order to understand our life support system, we need to have
    the opportunity to see it at eye level, ask questions and get curious. This is how we become compelled to care and learn to make better, more sustainable everyday choices.

    activities


    In order to understand our life support system, we need to have
    the opportunity to see it at eye level, ask questions and get curious. This is how we become compelled to care and learn to make better, more sustainable everyday choices.

    lasting connections lead to better choices

    Our engaging programs and exhibits showcase local aquatic life and raise awareness about how we can all play a part in our oceans health. Our engaging, knowledgeable staff interpreters and volunteers will inform and inspire you about the wonders of our local waters.

    Sister to the Ucluelet Aquarium on the west coast of Vancouver Island, the Centre is based on a tried and tested mini aquarium model that has been replicated across Canada in both Campbell River, BC, and in Petty Harbour, Newfoundland.

    The Centre is developing offerings such as indoor and outdoor interpretive guided tours, animal feedings, children’s crafts and play learning, “aquarist for a day” program, dock side programs, curriculum-linked school programs, ocean monitoring programs, summer camps and young naturalists clubs. All programs will be rooted in the Ocean Literacy Framework adopted nationwide.

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    Key themes of future programs and exhibits include:

    • Rare and Unique Organism & Features of the Sunshine Coast: World renowned glass sponge reefs in Howe Sound (recently added to Environment Canada's list of potential world heritage sites); Skookumchuck Narrows
    • Biologically Significant Marine Habitats: The recovery of local eel grass beds which act as a nursery for countless juvenile fish and invertebrates; Herring Spawn sites
    • Developing a Network of Like-Minded Marine Education Partners on the Sunshine Coast: Chapman Creek Hatchery, Pender Harbour Herring Spawn Program, Sunshine Coast Conservation Association
    • From Stream to Sea: The Importance of Freshwater Management: Gibsons world-class drinking water (recipient of "Best in the World Municipal Water" award of 2005), in stream habitat restoration projects, etc.

    Activities in support of our environmental purpose

    Beyond educational activities, the Society will also conduct conservation projects that engage the Sunshine Coast community (youth and families, schools and residents) in protecting our delicate Howe Sound ecosystems. 

    The Society’s goal is to conduct at least three community-engagement projects every year. Our team will develop engaging community initiatives that foster an understanding of current issues facing Howe Sound, and promote better everyday choices needed to protect our marine ecosystems.

    Projects will take place across the Sunshine Coast harbours and waters, on beaches and where we have salmon bearing streams require habitat rehabilitation. 

    Examples of projects may include:

    • supporting herring populations by wrapping the creosote pilings of major wharf installations on the Coast to protect the eggs laid on the smooth surface of the pilings
    • removing pollution from beaches and plastic from our waters to avoid the release of millions of tiny micro plastics from reaching the garbage patches and other areas of the ocean that threaten fish, seabirds and sea mammals
    • educating boat owners of the ecological damage done by anchors and the importance of fixed moorage
    • buoys to protect eelgrass beds (critical for herring production)
    • monitoring salmon streams for healthy habitat and removing obstructions impeding the movement of fish

     

     

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    engage + support


    engage + support


    Photo by Arlene Littler

    Photo by Arlene Littler

    Waves of Generosity recognize annual donations

    We created a wall as a tribute to our supporters.

    Each donation of $500 will put your name or the name of someone special to you on a rockfish charm. Online donations can be made here or cheques can be dropped off at the public market (tax receipts will be provided at year end). The rockfish charms can be renewed annually and you can get as many as you want, whenever you want.

    Other ways to support our work include:

    Become a Sponsor - We welcome sponsors to support our educational programs and exhibits and we look forward to celebrating each with customized recognition and benefits.

    Contribute to our Endowment - In partnership with the Sunshine Coast Community Foundation we established an endowment for the Centre to be held by the Foundation in perpetuity with annual earnings directed to Centre programs. This is an excellent option for individuals interested in supporting our work into the future, potentially as part of an estate plan.

    Invest in an Annual Pass - Purchase a singles or family annual pass for yourself or as a gift. Pass holders can enjoy unlimited visits.

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    visit


    visit


    exploration + learning... for all ages

    Our 1,200 square foot aquarium showcases 30 exhibits of local marine life collected from nearby harbours and bays. Explore the habitats at your own pace or connect with one of our staff or volunteer interpreters who will be happy to tell you a bit about some of the 70+ species on display.

    Our team is happy to coach you if you wish to reach into one of the "touch tanks" and feel the spines of a prickly sea urchin! Visitors between the ages of 3 and 81 enjoy learning about the secret lives of species from Howe Sound's inter-tidal and sub-tidal zones. We are sure you will find something interesting here.

    The Centre prioritizes the display of the crabs, prawns, herring, scallops, clams, geoduck, urchins, sea cucumber, flounder, sablefish, oysters, salmon and jellies. Hardy invertebrate animals are also displayed including sea stars, sea anemones, hermit crabs, nudibranchs, eelgrass, sand dollars, perch and amphipods.

    After a short stay at the Centre, animals will be released back to their environment. This forward-thinking “collect-and-release” policy is unique to only three other aquarium societies in Canada, making the Centre a leader in the field of ocean conservation practices and animal care standards. "Release days" will be memorable events organized with community groups and volunteers.

    Repeat visits are encouraged as special interactive exhibits are displayed for limited time and the habitats are constantly evolving. Our annual pass makes this easy.

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    contact us


    contact us


     

    We'd love to hear from you!

    Please send us your message and we will endeavour to respond promptly. You can also reach us at (604) 245-3163. 

    The Centre is located in the Gibsons Public Market
    473 Gower Point Road (P.O. Box 191),
    Gibsons, BC V0N 1V0

    If you are interested in volunteering please email volunteer@gibsonsmarine-ed.org. If you are interested in organizing a school program please click here.

    To register for Kids Camps, please email Emily@gibsonsmarine-ed.org.

    Please complete the form below

    Name *
    Name
     
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    photo gallery


    photo gallery


     October 19, 2018: 1st Community Release at Nicholas Sonntag Marine Education Centre

    The Nicholas Sonntag Marine Education Centre is a unique, community-based collect and release aquarium. We collect animals locally from the surrounding marine waters of the Sunshine Coast and bring them into the Centre for temporary residency. We do this in order to allow visitors and locals alike to be introduced to our incredible local marine life, to learn about them and their unique adaptations, and in turn to care about them. 

    The week of October 15, 2018, the Sonnag Center had its first Community Release. The public was invited to participate in sending the animals back to their natural habitats. Here are a few photos from our very first Release Day presented in partnership with BC Ferries' SeaForward program. 

     April 1, 2019: 2nd Community Release at Nicholas Sonntag Marine Education Centre

    Building on our vision to foster an educated community that actively cares for the oceans we successfully celebrated our 2nd community release day on April 1st, 2019. On this day over a hundred ocean ambassadors were released from their temporary habitats in our community aquarium back to their natural environment. These animals were gently carried back to sea by volunteers, staff and community members of all ages. We love this event as it bridges the connection from the learning world to the living world. The release days helps raise awareness of the incredible biodiversity in the Howe Sound and Salish Sea, the first step in sustaining healthy Coastal life.