The Champney’s West Aquarium Initiative is hoping to have people looking at crab, starfish and sea cucumbers by the end of the year.
The public aquarium and touch tank has been in the works for several years and members of the community are getting excited that the project has almost been realized.
Bill Driedzic, a professor of ocean sciences at Memorial University, has been with the project since the beginning. He says the building is near finished following the addition of the electrical, fresh water system and septic system.
A crew is just finishing up the interior work and electrical has to add a few minor items. He says the interior should be completed by the middle of March, and from there they will install the sea water system.
“It will be the final phase and we will connect the building infrastructure to what is really required for an operational aquarium and learning center,” Driedzic told The Packet.
They will be bringing in reservoir and holding tanks from Memorial University to Champey’s West where they will be installed. There is also a detailed plan for the public viewing area involving two tanks made of clear Plexiglas and several other tanks of various heights. These will all be rigged up to a saltwater system.
The marine life will be brought in from the Memorial University Ocean and Sciences Center where a variety of specimen’s are being held.
“This includes Atlantic salmon, cod, cunners, flounders, ocean pout, and a vast array of invertebrate species, like star fish, sea cucumbers, crabs and lobsters,” says Driedzic.
“Pretty well anything that can be found locally by dive teams will be on display.”
This opportunity is not only a fabulous learning opportunity for tourists, but locals could stand to learn a lot too, says Driedzic.
“They will be astounded by the diversity of life that we have just off our shores; the beauty of some of these animals that some people have never seen before even though they live very close to them,” says Driedzic.
Most people probably haven’t many sea cucumbers, but now they will be able to pick them up in the touch tanks.
Driedzic says he finds the natural history exciting, but the aquarium will go a bit further than just having animals on display.
“It will deal with more serious issues. Such as how animals fit into various ecosystems and how climate change can affect sea life. If it affects one animal then it can have a domino effect through various systems,” says Driedzic.
He says the aquarium will be a vehicle to discuss timely issues in marine and ocean science and as a site where Memorial University researchers can display their research findings.
Fundraising efforts are still underway. The aquarium initiative needs to raise another $35,000 to meet its commitment to the federal and provincial government for matching funding.
Driedzic says it is incredibly gratifying to see the project being so close to finished.
“I can only use the teenagers phrase, it’s absolutely awesome. This isn’t a trivial facility. This is a supreme facility and once it goes operational it will be highly dynamic. The local people and those of us who have been involved are just thrilled,” says Driedzic.