Sidney’s aquarium of the Salish Sea marks fifth anniversary

Shaw Ocean Discovery Centre turns five; about to welcome its 500,000th visitor.

Shaw Ocean Discovery Centre Grand opening was June 20

Shaw Ocean Discovery Centre Grand opening was June 20

SIDNEY — The month of June marks significant milestones for the Shaw Ocean Discovery Centre; not only will the aquarium be celebrating its five year anniversary on June 20, it will also welcome its 500,000th visitor.

In celebration of five years of ‘hands on, hands wet’ education, the aquarium will be offering special birthday-themed programming over the weekend of June 21 and 22 that will include ‘Pin the Tail on the Urchin’, sea star crafts, and a collaborative kelp forest art project.

“Our community has truly embraced the aquarium over these last five years,” said Marketing Manager, Christina Smethurst.

“The celebration is not only to acknowledge our five year anniversary but it is also a thank you to our members, donors and supporters,” she said.

The history of the Centre begins in 2005, when a proposal was approved to combine the Marine Ecology Centre and Sidney Whale Museum into a marine-focused education centre.

Just four years later, thanks to funding from a provincial grant, the Town of Sidney and private and corporate donations (including a one-time donation from Shaw Communications — the largest single donation given by Shaw to a charity on Vancouver Island at the time), the aquarium was opened to the public.

Over 2,000 spectators attended its grand opening on June 20, 2009, including representatives from the Coast Salish First Nations people, local council members, donors and supporters as well as special guest speaker, Celine Cousteau.

In just five years, the aquarium holds the remarkable tally of bringing 500,000 visitors face-to-face with the wonders of the Salish Sea.

“Around half of our visitors are from southern Vancouver Island,” said Smethhurst. “The other half have come from all corners of the globe, including a family from Moldova just this week.”

The aquarium, Smethurst added, has averaged 100,000 visitors a  year.

“We’re proud to be not just a local favourite, but also an attraction that draws tourist footsteps to Sidney.”

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— Submitted by SODC