It’s one of the city’s top attractions for tourists and locals alike. But no visitors have been inside the Vancouver Aquarium for two months.
"On average we would have four, five thousand people a day coming in this time of the year," said aquarium CEO Lasse Gustavsson.
While the gates are locked outside, there’s still a lot of activity inside as the animals require 24-hour care.
"It’s almost turned like an all-inclusive resort for the animals," said Gustavsson. "I think some of them are bored. They miss the visitors. We make sure we entertain them. We train them and we give them all the love and care we need."
That care includes COVID-19 testing for seals, sea lions and otters. They’re given a nasal swab, just like people are.
"The aquarium is virus-free and that’s for animals and people alike, and we’d like to keep it that way," said Gustavsson.
The aquarium would like to welcome visitors again, but Gustavsson says coming up with a reopening plan hasn’t been easy. "It’s not built for the IKEA model, you follow the yellow sign on the floor. It’s what we call a free-flow aquarium. That will change, and that will make some parts of the aquarium not suitable for social distancing requirements we will have."
When it does reopen, the aquarium will have timed tickets and a dramatically reduced capacity.
"You will learn a lot about the ocean and the creatures that live in it, but it will be different," said Gustavsson. "The social or physical distancing will be respected."
Without the 65 per cent of ticket sales that normally come from tourists, the aquarium has a dismal economic forecast.
"I honestly don’t expect us to make any profits or any money at all this year. We will very likely run the aquarium on a deficit," said Gustavsson. That means it may need an influx of cash from governments or donors to stay afloat. "I’m planning for the worst and hoping for the best," he added.
As for a reopening date? Gustavsson says it won’t be before June 6.
"But we will open as soon as we get the green light from the heath authorities."