We will provide engaging programs and exhibits that showcase local aquatic life and raise awareness about how we can all play a part in our oceans health.
Operating year-round, the Centre will engage local families, tourists, seniors and children with a sensory experience that will make a lasting connection between local environments and conservation.
Engaging, knowledgeable staff interpreters and volunteers will inform and inspire visitors about the wonders of our local waters. Live animal aquariums, video displays, activity stations and programming space will occupy the 1,200 sq. ft. Centre which is expected to attract 11,000 visitors in its first year and grow annually in visitation and revenues.
Visitors will explore local marine life such as sea stars, urchins, scallops, salmon, snails, crabs and the giant Pacific octopus. Collected from nearby harbours and bays, the animals will be released back where they were collected after a short season on display. This forward-thinking “catch-and-release” policy is unique to only three other aquarium societies in Canada, making the NSMEC a leader in the field of ocean conservation practices and animal care standards.
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 will host 15 to 25 live animal exhibits featuring species from our local Howe Sound waters. Work is underway to install tanks and a life support system that will replicate the natural habitat of the collected species. Each tank will contain multiple species similarly to what is experienced in the wild. We have secured DFO permits for specie collection. We are working with trained divers, biologists and veterinarians to ensure the proper care of species during collection, through the exhibit period and through the process of releasing them back to the wild.
The Centre will offer interpretive displays. We will host school road trips to support teachers looking to make local connections that help meet primary and secondary education curriculum requirements. Lecture series featuring experts who share their knowledge about an aspect of our ecosystem will attract learners of all ages.
As the global and local importance of ocean health increases, so does the value of creating ocean learning centres that can provide the opportunity to experience, learn, care and eventually conserve our oceans.
For this reason, the Centre will focus on educational themes that demonstrate the interconnectedness between people and our oceans.
With an active spot prawn (shrimp) fishery, the Sunshine Coast has a lot to celebrate. Wild BC Spot Prawns come from a sustainable fishery and are recognized by the David Suzuki Foundation/Seachoice program as a BEST CHOICE, the Vancouver Aquarium’s Ocean Wise program as GREEN and the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch Program as a BEST CHOICE.
Celebrated annually at the Pender Harbour Prawn Festival, the Sunshine Coast prawn fishermen are recognized worldwide for
leading the way in sustainable harvesting practices. Crab and herring are also harvested along the coast, both with sustainable practices in place.
Other key themes the programs and exhibits at the Centre include:
- Rare and Unique Organism & Features of the Sunshine Coast: World renowned glass sponge reefs in Howe Sound; 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.