Nova Scotia

Marine museum and lab to open in Louisbourg

Louisbourg is seizing the opportunity of its ocean location and seafaring history to develop a new attraction in town. The Oceans of Opportunity Marine Science and Heritage Centre officially opens on Thursday.

Oceans of Opportunity Marine Science and Heritage Centre opens Thursday

This leatherback sea turtle is on display at the Oceans of Opportunity Marine Science and Heritage Centre in Louisbourg. (Jenna Lahey)

Louisbourg, N.S., is seizing the opportunity of its ocean location and seafaring history to develop a new attraction in town.   

The Oceans of Opportunity Marine Science and Heritage Centre officially opens on Thursday. 

It's a combination lab space, marine heritage museum and period boat building operation.

"The vision for this place is to be the home for marine science in eastern Cape Breton," said Adam Mugridge, who works with Louisbourg Seafoods, which co-owns the space.

"And so this would be a place where scientists of all types —university researchers, professional oceanographers, citizen scientists — can talk, collaborate and learn from each other."

The five buildings making up the centre are located on Louisbourg's waterfront. (Jenna Lahey)

The centre is run by a non-profit organization, with support and contributions from Louisbourg Seafoods.

It will house the company's science office and will serve as the home base for the recently formed Eastern Nova Scotia Marine Stewardship Society.

The society is currently working on a project to study ocean entanglement of species at risk, funded through a federal research grant.

"Through that we were able to hire a few people and make some modest upgrades to the office space and the lab space. We've slowly and surely been getting some funding to sort of help out," said Mugridge, who is also the society's president.

Buildings have been empty 2 decades

The five buildings making up the centre are located on Louisbourg's waterfront. They were constructed in the 1970s as a craft centre, but have sat empty for more than 20 years.

There are plans to rent out part of the space to retail shops to help generate revenue.

One building will be a combination museum and workshop, where master carpenter and Fortress of Louisbourg animator Darcy Harte will demonstrate period boat building. (Jenna Lahey)

For now, the marine science centre includes office and meeting space, as well as various displays.

"You can see things like our leatherback sea turtle ... some bones from different whales and some other things from different marine species, like various shells," said Mugridge.

"We're also going to have our virtual reality centre in there, so you can take a tour underwater of a marine protected area off of Cape Breton."

Another building will house a laboratory with a touch tank where visitors can get a close up look at marine life such as sea stars and periwinkles.

Town hopes to reel in cruise passengers

A third building will be a combination museum and workshop, where master carpenter and Fortress of Louisbourg animator Darcy Harte will demonstrate period boat building.

The Thursday opening is set to coincide with Louisbourg's first cruise ship visit of the season. (Jenna Lahey)

The museum will include artifacts from shipwrecks and the early days of the fishing industry.

The Thursday opening is set to coincide with Louisbourg's first cruise ship visit of the season.

While tourists have long flocked to the area to visit the Fortress of Louisbourg, it's hoped the centre will provide a reason for them to linger in town, said Jenna Lahey, marketing manager with Louisbourg Seafoods and head of the community's cruise ship committee.

"In Louisbourg here we get about 100,000 people every year," she said. 

"But the town itself is only capturing about five per cent of that number. So we really wanted to give people a reason to come into the town itself, and stay in the town and find some cool and interesting things to do while they're here."

With files from Information Morning Cape Breton

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