New aquariums: A look at global developments

10 September 2012 | Roy Barford

Rob Hicks, director of Sea Life Rob Hicks, director of Sea Life

Speakers from around the world gave 8th International Aquarium Congress delegates some insight into recent developments on the aquarium scene, as well as some tips for anyone looking at buying or building an aquarium.

Rob Hicks, director of Sea Life, explained that the company now owned more than 40 aquariums, having come a long way since it was founded 33 years ago in Scotland. These aquariums attract some 15-million visitors each year.

Hicks explained that the group’s growth strategy had been a simple one: build new aquariums or buy existing ones. He mentioned, however, that location had been an important factor in deciding on suitable sites. He said Sea Life ideally looked at sites with a population of 10 million within a two-hour radius. Some acquisitions included Manly Sea Life Sanctuary, Melbourne Aquarium and Shanghai Aquarium.

Hicks said staying true to the brand had been an important part of Sea Life’s growth. “Breed, rescue and protect” were three constant missions of the organisation.

Kyung Sup Byun of Hanwha Marine Biology Research Center in Seoul, Korea, spoke about the country’s two latest aquariums, which were built concurrently. Aqua Planet Jeju and Aqua Planet Yeosu both recently opened to the public and have both been attracting large visitor numbers, with as many as 50 000 people per day visiting Aqua Planet Jeju. There were however several challenges in building these aquariums, including limited manpower and resources. Korea now has five aquariums.

Saudi Arabia is set to have two aquariums, one of which has already been built. Philippe de Lacaze, director of Coutant Aquariums, said 35-million Euros was spent on building Jeddah Aquarium, the country’s first aquarium. Construction took three years and numerous difficulties were encountered along the way, including an absence of local procurement, complex imports, as well as “nightmare via issues”, which meant that employees had to leave Saudi Arabia at least once a month and only return once a new visa had been issued.

Douglas Simpson of Cambridge Seven Associates explained the plans for the National Aquarium of Saudi Arabia and hoped to experience fewer challenges than the team that worked on Jeddah Aquarium.

In Copenhagen, Denmark, plans to open a new aquarium had been in place since 1996 and it is expected that The Blue Planet will finally open its doors to the public in March next year. Research and behind-the-scenes type tours will be an important part of this aquarium, which will host exotic species such as anacondas and crocodiles. 

Weiyong Hu from the Beijing Aquarium in China said there are more than 80 commercial aquariums in China, directly employing more than 10 000 people. The Beijing Aquarium is the world’s largest inland aquarium and plays a large part in protecting species such as the Chinese sturgeon.

Follow the 8th IAC on Twitter for regular updates and feel free to contribute your opinions at any stage.

  • Author: Roy Barford
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