Travel Blog

14 Jun

The Vancouver Aquarium in Stanley Park – Behind the Scenes

Julia Gorman (Senior Marine Mammal Trainer) releases a Herring in the wide-open mouth of Kila.

The following photo essay was contributed by Vancouver photographer Dave Roels ( as part of our Behind the Scenes in Tourism series.

The Vancouver Public Aquarium in beautiful Stanley Park is one of the best places to visit whether you are a tourist or local resident.

I contacted Dr. John Nightingale, the Vancouver Public Aquarium’s president, to see if he would allow me to go behind-the-scenes and take a few photographs for the Behind The Scenes In Tourism series on the Inside Vancouver blog. Dr. Nightingale passed me along to Roxanne St-Pierre in communications who suggested three areas to photograph.

My first stop was the research area. Observing the numerous tanks and water pipes, one realizes how much research goes on at the Aquarium. Seeing the beautiful displays and the colorful fish swimming is a feast for the eyes. Both the professional and volunteer staff I met during my time behind-the-scenes are passionate and enthusiastic about their work.

At the beluga whale kitchen, the daily allowance of food is carefully measured out by the staff. Frozen fish are allowed to slowly defrost. In the morning the fish go into tanks of cold water for final separation and sorting into each whales’ meal container. The quality of the fish is the very highest. A one year supply of fresh frozen fish is stored in their on-site and off-site freezers.

Over at the turtle area a staff member is preparing the fish and vegetables for Schoona. This turtle is smart and well trained. Schoona knows exactly what time it is and shows up for feeding without having to be called. Schoona swims into the holding area next to the shark tanks and then the feeding begins. I was amazed to see Schoona eat romaine lettuce, red pepper, zucchini, and of course some fish. I called it “turtle salad”.

The Vancouver Public Aquarium’s website is first class. They have some excellent photographs and you’ll find information on all their events, activities and exhibits. You can even schedule a behind-the-scenes sleepover and bed down in front of one of the Aquarium’s spectacular marine galleries. How cool is that!

The new Penguin Point exhibit is now open. Seeing what I saw and knowing that anyone can take a journey behind the scenes, it would be well worth it to take out a family or individual membership. Once you explore their website and then visit the Aquarium, you know that you will want to go back again and again.

Research Technician Jonathan Wong feeds a salt-water solution to a tub of Sea Monkeys.

Jonathan Wong, a thesis student at UBC, is feeding live plankton to rockfish. The three-color containers are different meals.

Jonathan is showing us a jar of salt water eals.

Jonathan holds a sculpin in a grunt barnacle shell

The flashlight acts as sunlight for the saltwater eals.

In the Jelly Hall Jonathan looks at a tank of spotted jelly fish that come from Palau in the South Pacific.

Brian Sheehan (Marine Mammal Curator) is moving a pallet full of fresh frozen fish to the Aquarium on site freezer.

Fresh pre-thawed herring is being put into deep sinks in the Marine Mammal kitchen to be washed and distributed.

Zzachry Charland-Snow with his green gloves sorts through the Herring looking for any defective fish.

Each Beluga Whale has their own diet and Zzachry puts in Capelin in with the Herring.

A pail of Herring. If it was only pickled I might eat some myself.

Three Capelin are on their way into the blue bucket.

Julia Gorman (Senior Marine Mammal Trainer) releases a Herring in the wide-open mouth of Kila.

Paula Lash (Marine Mammal Trainer) tosses a Herring to Kavna to catch.

Jennifer Reynolds (Senior Aquarium Biologist) weighs out the Capelin for Schoona the Turtle.

Jennifer holds what I call Turtle Salad and some Capelin for Schoona.

Jennifer releases a large green leaf romaine lettuce to Schoona in the feeding tank, which is part of the shark tank.

Schoona is about to start chewing a piece of zucchini

In order to breathe in some air, Schoona has to excrete urine as her shell is mostly made of up a large bladder. Schoona’s intake of water is very high.

A nice close up of Schoona taken though the glass at the Vancouver Public Aquarium.

Schoona is looking at me and has a nice expression. Did you know that Turtles love to be photographed?

Finally Schoona is heading up to the surface of the tank to go for a another Turtle Salad.

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