Project Title:

Ucluelet Aquarium

Project Organization:

Ucluelet Aquarium Society

Project Investment:

  • Island Coastal Economic Trust: $515,000
  • District of Ucluelet: $100,000
  • Ucluelet Aquarium Society: $268,164
  • WestCCAP: $250,000
  • Western Economic Diversification: $374,500
  • Inkind Contributions: $321,678
  • Total Budget: $1,829,342

Project Highlight:

The Ucluelet Aquarium, together with the Wild Pacific Trail, are 2 “must do” activities in Ucluelet.

The west coast of Vancouver Island has long been a favorite international travel destination. In recent years, travellers to the area’s famous beaches and resorts have been choosing to explore wider afield into the region’s communities. Ucluelet has benefited from this trend and developed its own suite of tourism amenities, such as the Wild Pacific Trail. However, a drawback to keeping tourists in the region for longer periods of time is the lack of indoor tourism and recreation opportunities. The highly successful ‘mini-aquarium’ in Ucluelet, which filled this niche for many years, had exceeded its modest capacity. Building on the success of its predecessor, the new Ucluelet Aquarium delivers a state-of-the-art, hands-on learning environment, well suited for all ages.
The Ucluelet Aquarium, designed to resemble a whale tail, features more than 3000 square feet of aquarium displays and amenities, including touch tanks for hands-on experiences; display areas for static and interactive exhibits; demonstration and teaching stations; a multi-purpose lecture and seminar room, as well as a marine observation area.  All specimens are gathered from local waters and later released in public participation events.  An innovative system integrates the Ucluelet Aquarium with the local marine ecosystem as freshwater from the harbour flows through the tanks providing the specimens with all of the fresh nutrients found in the wild.
The development of a larger, permanent facility, completed in 2012, has resulted in quality local employment opportunities for naturalists, biologists, guides, as well as service and maintenance staff. The development of a family-oriented, indoor experience, is resulting in longer stays in the region and attracting a more diverse visitor base. The increase in visitors supports tourism-related services within the region, benefitting an area impacted by the loss of forestry and fisheries jobs. Less than a year after opening, the Aquarium generated more than 22,000 paid visits and paid off their entire construction debt.

Island Coastal Economic Trust approved funding for this project in 2012 through the Capital and Innovation program.