The Vancouver Aquarium has confirmed that it is in the running to operate the largest aquatic life park in Europe.
Valencia’s municipal government is looking for a new operator to manage and operate L’Oceanogràfic, a Spanish aquarium about five times larger than the Vancouver facility in Stanley Park.
It houses 45,000 aquatic animals, including dolphins and beluga whales, within 42 million litres of water and attracts an attendance of about 1.2 million people on an annual basis. In contrast, the Vancouver Aquarium has about 9.5 million litres of water and sees just over one million visitors every year.
The Vancouver Aquarium is bidding against two other teams based in France and Italy, and the announcement of the winning team is expected to be made later this month or April following a thorough evaluation process by the municipal government.
The Vancouver bid team consists of two partners: KET, a Spanish company that oversaw the construction and early operation of L’Oceanogràfic, as well as Ominum Iberco SA, a Spanish water company. Together, the three entities have formed a new aquarium operating company incorporated in Spain named Avanqua.
Few details about the Vancouver Aquarium’s proposed plans for the Spanish facility are available at the moment due to the nature of the bidding process, but staff have stated that the partnership will be mutually beneficial.
A spokesperson with the Vancouver Aquarium told Vancity Buzz that operating L’Oceanogràfic would be a major opportunity to engage more people around the world in awareness of interest and ocean issues.
“We can assist L’Oceanogràfic by sharing our best practices in visitor engagement, animal care, success in marine mammal rescue, award-winning conservation and education programs and ground-breaking research,” said Vancouver Aquarium spokesperson Charlene Chiang.
“This will make our own operations more efficient and effective as it will involve even more collaborators and share our conservation messages with an even larger audience.”
In exchange for operating the facility in Valencia, the Vancouver Aquarium will receive funding to support its operations in Vancouver and initiatives based in Canada.
The process first began in early 2012 when officials from Valencia’s municipal government made a visit to the Stanley Park facility.
Following the visit, the Spanish team determined that its vision for L’Oceanogràfic aligned with the Vancouver Aquarium, especially on areas around research and conservation work and the mixture of programs the Aquarium has founded and operates.
After a tour and detailed discussions, the officials from Valencia offered the Vancouver Aquarium an opportunity to be a part of L’Oceanogràfic’s future. Formal calls for proposals from the Valencian government followed and the Vancouver bid proposal was delivered in December 2014.
Since the Mediterranean facility’s opening 2003, L’Oceanogràfic has been operated by a private contractor. If successful, the Vancouver Aquarium will operate L’Oceanogràfic for 15 years with an option to renew for another 15 years.