The Ucluelet Aquarium is ready to release this season’s slew of specimens and the community is invited to celebrate the sendoff.
The aquarium’s annual release day event will be held on Dec. 5.
“It’s a really, really, fun day,” said aquarium curator Laura Griffith-Cochrane. “It’s always been a very community-centered day and we’re really excited about it.”
Locals are encouraged to bring their own buckets to the event where they can carry critters from the aquarium and release them into the ocean surrounding Ucluelet’s Whiskey Dock from noon-2 p.m.
“The unique thing about our aquarium is that we always release more than we collect,” Griffith-Cochrane said.
“Because we pump in raw seawater, we have a lot of species that begin in their planktonic stage in our aquarium, settle, and then begin to grow so we’ll be releasing hundreds and hundreds of individuals back into the wild.”
Only the animals that were collected from around Ucluelet’s harbour will be released at the event as some species must be returned to tricky-to-reach areas by professionals, according to Griffith-Cochrane.
She said release day is spiced with a pinch of sadness as aquarium staff say goodbye to the animals they’ve nurtured and interpreted over the past season.
“It can be kind of an emotional day for us because you can’t help but fall in love a little bit with some of these things every season and it’s bittersweet to be releasing them so that they can go do their thing in the wild,” she said.
She said the aquarium’s unique catch-and-release model is an important part of its educational value.
“We believe that by releasing our species it helps us to connect back to the environments that we’re talking about and that we’re helping to protect,” she said.
“It helps to create that connection that these things that are so wonderful and important to us live in places that are very close and accessible to us and so those ecosystems that are close and accessible are important and it’s important for us to protect them.”
She said the aquarium has always believed the creatures brought in to delight fans must then be able to fulfill their biological destinies.
“One of the things we always talked about—this was a phrase from back in the day—was fulfilling their biological destiny,” she said.
“It’s important to us that these species that are in here and that we get to talk about for a season get to go back to the wild and fulfill that destiny. They get to eat things or get eaten or reproduce or hunt for mates or migrate to their areas where they’re important for those little ecosystems.”
She added catching and releasing allows the aquarium to offer new exhibits each year.
“Because we’re a small facility, it means that when we go collect new things in the spring we get to collect things that weren’t represented the year before,” she said.
“We strive to have new things every year so that our locals get to see something different, so it’s new and exciting whenever you come back and so that we’re attracting new people out to the area every year.”
Following the family-friendly release day event, a fundraising afterparty will be held for aquarium fans 19-and-over at 8 p.m. with live music starting at 9 p.m.