Pop-up aquarium in Prince Rupert a chance to connect with local ecosystems this summer

A temporary aquarium now open in an empty cruise ship terminal in Prince Rupert, B.C., is providing people with the opportunity to learn about local ecosystems and marine life this summer.

Located in Cow Bay at the Northland Terminal, the pop-up exhibition is the brain child of the North Coast Ecology Society. It features multiple saltwater tanks, animal skulls, and marine invertebrates such as starfish, anemones, urchins and sea cucumbers.

« It’s looking really good [and] much more colourful then I think people would imagine, » said Caitlin Birdsall, the chair of the non-profit society.

She said the society, which is made up primarily of enthusiastic locals with biology backgrounds, is hoping to eventually set up a permanent ecology centre and, with the cruise ship terminal empty due to the pandemic, it was a perfect chance to try a test run.

« [We] really thought bringing an education centre, an interpretive centre, would be a great fit for our community, » said Birdsall, adding the overarching goal is to promote stewardship and connection with the environment.

caitlin birdsall
Caitlin Birdsall, the chair of the North Coast Ecology Society, shows off some of the starfish on display. Visitors to the site can get their hands wet touching marine invertebrates such as starfish, anemones, urchins and sea cucumbers. (Matt Allen/CBC)

And the pop-up offers that connection.

Visitors will learn about the water cycle and how it feeds forests, bogs and marine life. There are also eight tanks in the exhibition and, at one of them, guests are invited to touch the marine invertebrates inside.

A full-sized humpback whale skull about the size of a motorcycle is also a feature attraction.

« We hope to sort of create an ethic of stewardship in our community, » said Birdsall.

The pop-up launched July 21 and is open from Wednesday to Sunday from 10 a.m. to  4 p.m., and on Fridays from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. until Aug. 15.

For more details, visit www.northcoastecologycentresociety.com.

Daybreak North7:07Pop-up aquarium opens in Prince Rupert

Caitlin Birdsall gives the CBC’s Matt Allen a tour. 7:07