VANCOUVER — The Vancouver Aquarium is closing to the public, putting its programming on pause while it attempts to recover from the financial devastation of COVID-19.
Ocean Wise, the non-profit organization that operates the aquarium, says in a news release the decision was made in response to one of the most financially challenging times in its 64-year history.
It says ticket sales have declined almost 80 per cent and visitor restrictions are expected to continue well into next year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The organization's board of directors says it will use the time to focus on transforming to a new model that is both financially viable and accelerates its mission of conservation.
Ocean Wise says it will close Sept. 7 and all animals on site will continue to receive care from 75 specialized staff.
The organization says 209 full-time, part-time and casual positions will be eliminated.
"Staff reductions were an incredibly difficult decision and one we truly hoped to avoid," board chairman Christian Baxter says in the statement.
"We are committed to getting the Aquarium back on solid financial footing so that we can continue to build on its legacy and tackle the most pressing ocean conservation challenges of our time, including climate change, pollution, and overfishing."
The Vancouver Aquarium reopened in June following a three-month closure at the start of the pandemic.
While restrictions on the number of people allowed inside made it "COVID-safe" for the summer, Ocean Wise says it meant the aquarium could not cover its operating costs of more than $1 million a month.
"Under these difficult circumstances, transforming the Aquarium is the most responsible thing we can do,” says Lasse Gustavsson, president and CEO of Ocean Wise.
"It is because of support from our members, donors, volunteers, staff, program partners, and government that we were able to avoid bankruptcy and take this important step to rebuild and come back even better."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 31, 2020.
The Canadian Press