An easy highlight in Ucluelet, especially for children, is the local aquarium. Since 2004, the Ucluelet Aquarium has been delighting visitors and giving them insight into life under the waves of the Pacific Ocean. Although it moved locations and upgraded from a semi-permanent mini-aquarium to a unique, permanent building across the way, the goal and system remains the same: A seasonal catch-and-release aquarium with aims to educate visitors about the incredible eco-system of the West Coast and, ultimately, to have them learn how to respect the waterways.
As far as the rest of the world goes, the aquarium’s system is unique. Each February and March, divers, fishermen and volunteers brace the cold to collect different species from the shores and waters of Barkley and Clayoquot Sound. Then, every August there is a massive release party where the entire collection (and usually some additions!) is released again back into the ocean. For some creatures who arrived as mere plankton and have grown into amazing new animals, or who were born in the tanks, the release opens doors into a brand new world. Don’t worry about them being ready for the wild though, their homes at the aquarium are prepared to perfection – even the rocks in the displays are collected by divers and each tank is tweaked until the water flow, pressure and oxygen levels are optimal for the organism within. Some tanks even become self-sustainable mini-ecosystems!
Because of their unique catch-and-release program, more and more creatures can be displayed. So, even if you’ve been before, it will be a brand new experience the next time around. On that note, the aquarium is quite literally part of the local water system – every tank in the aquarium is fed directly from the Ucluelet Harbour. Having a catch-and-release program backed by green technology and a unique integration into the water system creates a low-impact way to educate about the environment, which is often hard to come by. The touch tanks and educational programs/day camps are simply a bonus to an incredible find in this tiny harbour town. After a visit, you’ll be prepared with enough knowledge for your own tidepooling adventures, too.
The Ucluelet Aquarium is a great way to gain better knowledge about the incredible coastal ecosystem that surrounds you. Not to mention, it’s the perfect activity for a rainy day! The aquarium is open daily as of mid-March from 10am-5pm. They offer season’s passes, so if you’re planning on returning more than once before they close in early December, it’s a great thing to consider. Otherwise, adults pay $14.00 and children are only $7.00.
Contributed by: Laurissa Cebryk