Shaw Centre for the Salish Sea has closed effectively Monday afternoon. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)

Popular Sidney aquarium closes over coronavirus

Shaw Centre for the Salish Sea has a plan to care for more than 3,000 animals

One of the major regional attractions on the Saanich Peninula has closed because of COVID-19.

The Shaw Centre for the Salish Sea has closed effectively Monday afternoon.

Pauline Finn, executive director, said the decision to close “has been made in an abundance of caution” to minimize the future, potential spread of COVID-19.

“This temporary closure will support the need for social distancing, as recommended by our health officials to slow the spread of the virus,” she said. “We apologize for the disruption and inconvenience. We are hopeful that these preventative measures will help to flatten the curve on the spread of COVID-19 in our community.”

RELATED: Sidney Museum closes in wake of COVID-19 spread

The centre draws about 70,000 visitors each year. “This year, our target was set for 72,000,” said Finn.

The centre’s announcement means that many, if not most of Sidney’s major public destinations have closed within the span of less than 24 hours. The Sidney Museum announced its closure Sunday afternoon.

The Town of Sidney announced late Monday morning that it has “restricted” public access to all municipal buildings as a precautionary measure during the COVID-19 outbreak. Impacted facilities include municipal hall, the community safety building, public works and parks yard, and driver’s services. The municipality said it would continue to perform all essential services.

The decision to close the centre — which was open over the weekend — comes with special circumstances, namely, the existence of live animals. Finn said the centre has taken steps. “Rest assured our 3,000-plus critters will be well looked after by our animal care team throughout this public closure period,” she said. “Our learning team will continue sharing our mission through FaceBook, Twitter and Instagram channels @SalishSeaCentre.”

RELATED: Sidney restricts access to all municipal buildings

Finn added later that she is spending Monday with the centre’s lead aquarist caring for the animals, with a meeting scheduled for tomorrow to finalize operational planning for the next week.

“Our animal care staff and senior team will be rotating shifts at the centre to ensure all of our critters are healthy and happy and to oversee work at home projects,” she said. “Depending on the length of closure, we may choose to tackle a few project difficult to address when we are open to the public. We will be taking every day and week as it comes and constantly evaluating the situation, options and needs of our community.”

Finn said all staff and volunteers are urged to look after themselves and families and follow the recommendations of health officials, practicing appropriate social distancing.

“We will not be utilizing volunteers during this period of time, but are staying in regular contact with our full crew to make sure everyone is doing well,” she said.

Finn said the centre’s team has had mixed reaction to this step, including some relief, some disappointment and of course, some nervousness. “We have staff and volunteers in a variety of home situations including several folks living on their own and we especially want to be sure they continue to feel supported and connected with our Salish Sea community,” she said.

Finn said the centre will continue to coordinate future actions with the municipality, adding that it will actively monitor the situation and follow the guidance and recommendations of the BC Centre for Disease Control, the provincial health officer and Vancouver Island Health Authority.


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