Vancouver Aquarium gets $600K in donations — enough for 2.5 weeks of animal care
The aquarium has reduced monthly costs from about $3M to $1m, but only has enough cash until mid-June.
The Vancouver Aquarium has received a flood of support from the public since it announced its precarious financial situation last week, but according to the CEO of the non-profit that operates the 64-year-old attraction, it won't be enough to keep the aquarium afloat.
Lasse Gustavsson, CEO of Ocean Wise, said about $600,000 in donations has come in, but depending on the generosity of the public isn't sustainable. Without a support package from provincial or federal governments, the institution will have to close permanently, likely sometime in June.
"Every dollar is a love letter — that's how it feels — but obviously we can't depend on that kind of generosity for a very long time. The $600,000 we've been receiving so far, that keeps us going for two and a half weeks," said Gustavsson on Thursday.
Gustavsson said since closing its doors on March 17 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the aquarium has made deep cuts to costs. The gift shop, cafe and entrance fees made up the bulk of its $3.3 million monthly average revenue, which is about how much it cost to operate. Now, the cost has been slashed to just over $1 million.
About 60 per cent of staff have been laid off — 331 people. Renovations have been cancelled and maintenance has been reduced. Gustavsson said the only staff remaining are directly involved in caring for the 70,000 animals at the aquarium.
Few animals could be released to wild
He said a small portion of the animals could potentially be released into the wild with Department of Fisheries and Oceans permits, like the rockfish which are a local species, but it would cost roughly $5 million to find new homes for the collection.
Big animals were either born in captivity, so are not fit for the wild, or they would pose a threat to other wildlife.
"We have 10 sea lions. They are used to being in contact with people. If they were released, they could potentially become a threat to others, because they would seek attention from people who don't know how to behave around sea lions," said Gustavsson.
Ocean Wise has suspended its Marine Mammal Rescue Centre operations, where the last animal in care — a sea lion that was shot with a crossbow — was released back into the wild earlier this month.
The team at the centre rehabilitates about 150 animals each year, but Gustavsson said they would only take a new animal in now if it's especially important to conservation, such as a whale.
He said they're looking at the possibility of finding large donations from wealthy philanthropists, but realistically, only government help will be enough.
"I see no other way, actually," said Gustavsson.
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