Nova Scotia

Shannon Park aquarium not viable, says Dalhousie biologist

A Dalhousie biologist who specializes in marine facilities says an aquarium shouldn't be built in Shannon Park because of cost and access for tourists.

Toronto's Ripley Aquarium cost $120M for 100,000 square feet, says biologist Chris Harvey-Clark

A Dalhousie biologist who specializes in marine facilities says an aquarium shouldn't be built in Shannon Park because of cost and access for tourists. (The Associated Press)

Dartmouth's Shannon Park is not the right location for a possible aquarium, according to a marine biologist and veterinarian who specializes in aquarium facilities. 

"Most people know that Ripley's built an aquarium in Toronto," said Chris Harvey-Clark of Dalhousie University. "That aquarium had a $120 million price tag for a 100,000 square feet."

The former military housing site is on the verge of being redeveloped. Canada Lands, the federal agency in charge of the project, has proposed a mix of housing and light commercial space.  

'Could be a grand meeting place'

The idea of public attractions to bring people to the area has also been raised at the public feedback sessions hosted by the agency 

Even the Mayor has mused about the possibility.

"I think there should be a number of public amenities," said Mike Savage. 

"And one of those could be a grand meeting place — whether that's a performing art centre, an aquarium or a community centre."

But aquariums are costly and complex ventures.

According to, Harvey-Clark even Ripley's received 30 per cent of its funding from various levels of government. He points out that elaborate, expensive infrastructure is needed to keep aquatic species alive and healthy.  

Harvey-Clark has experience. He has visited every aquarium in North America.

Better access for tourists

In 2005, he helped Ripley's Entertainment study the possibility of exhibiting Greenland shark. The idea, however, was ruled out because the sharks prefer to swim long distances in straight lines and not in circles.   

"Most successful aquaria in North America have a million or more people in a one-hour drive," said Harvey-Clark. "And many of them have year-round tourism."

He does admit that smaller aquariums in places such as St. Andrew's, New Brunswick and Petty Harbour, Newfoundland have been successful.

Even if public and private investors could be found for a larger venture, Harvey-Clark believes it would have to be built on the Halifax side of the harbour and not at Shannon Park.

"In my opinion, that would probably mean something within walking distance of the cruise ship docks, the other museums and the downtown core." 

About the Author

Pam Berman

Reporter

Pam Berman is CBC Nova Scotia's municipal affairs reporter. She's been a journalist for almost 35 years and has covered Halifax regional council since 1997. That includes four municipal elections, 19 budgets and countless meetings. Story ideas can be sent to pam.berman@cbc.ca

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