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Groundbreaking Research Sheds Light on Belugas

At the Vancouver Aquarium, our commitment to conservation, research and education extends far beyond the west coast. As a leading marine science centre, we have a responsibility to protect vulnerable aquatic ecosystems that extend far beyond our own backyard.

This year, we turned our attention to Canada’s North and places like Cunningham Inlet in Nunavut. It’s here that Aquarium research associate Dr. Valeria Vergara has been conducting groundbreaking research on the communication systems of beluga whales. In 2015 she returned for the second time to establish baseline data on contact calls between mothers and calves. Building on work she began at the Aquarium with mother-daughter belugas Aurora and Qila, Vergara was able to identify the lower-frequency calls typical of very young calves. Like human children, beluga babies have a limited communication range that increases as they grow.

Vergara’s findings shed vital insight on an intensely social species that depends on sound to keep track of one another in dark Arctic waters. It also raises important questions about the impact of increased noise pollution on belugas as climate change opens the Arctic to shipping, tourism, industry and other human activity. Vergara’s research could help determine whether noise pollution is one factor contributing to declining beluga populations in Quebec’s busy Gulf of St. Lawrence, where she plans to conduct similar research this year.

As human activity encroaches on more wild, once-remote habitat, it is crucial we continue to learn about vulnerable aquatic life, whether near or far.

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Ocean Wise® Turns 10

We strive to make our conservation message as accessible as possible. A decade ago, we launched Ocean Wise to help people make sustainable seafood choices where it counts: at the grocery store, the kitchen table and at our favourite restaurants. It’s unbelievable how the program has grown.

From an initial base of just 16 local restaurants, Ocean Wise is now a leading sustainable seafood program with more than 650 partner businesses at thousands of locations all across Canada. We celebrated our 10th anniversary this year with many momentous milestones.

In April, we held our first Seafood Symposium, bringing together fisheries experts, academics and chefs to explore the science behind sustainable seafood and the business of bringing ocean-friendly choices to market. Also new this year, we published our first scientific assessment of small fisheries in Canada. Ocean Wise research analyst Laurenne Schiller highlighted the sustainable gooseneck barnacle harvest by Ha’oom Wild Seafood near Tofino on Vancouver Island. Using criteria developed by the Seafood Watch Program at Monterey Bay Aquarium, our small scale fisheries assessments call attention to local, sustainable products that often fly under the radar of the restaurant industry. We also released a report for giant Pacific octopus and in 2016 we’ll continue with assessments for trap-caught northern shrimp, Arctic char, sea cucumbers and other species. To make ocean-friendly eating even easier, we launched a slick new Ocean Wise app that puts sustainable seafood choices at your fingertips.

Overfishing is the single biggest threat our oceans face today. Each time we add a new member to the Ocean Wise family we increase sustainable seafood choices for consumers and help ensure the health of our oceans for generations to come.

Stats

  • 409,417 Cigarette butts collected as part of Shoreline Cleanups
  • 59,136 Canadians registered for Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup
  • 25,000+ Hours dedicated to rehabilitating animals at our Marine Mammal Rescue Centre
  • 650+ Ocean Wise® partners across Canada
  • 145 Marine mammals rescued and provided with rehabilitation care

Take Action

Our oceans need our help, and the Vancouver Aquarium is a great place to start. The more of us who pitch in, the better our world will be. Please consider getting involved—you can take action in all kinds of ways, and every little bit means a whole lot.

Choose to consume only Ocean Wise sustainable seafood, and visit Ocean Wise restaurants and retailers.

Provide a few days each year to your community’s shoreline cleanup through our Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup.

Donate your time or your financial support to wild animals in need through our Marine Mammal Rescue Centre.

Reduce your role in the changing Arctic by using only what you need and being aware of the environmental impacts of the products you purchase.

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A Killer New View

There’s nothing like getting a fresh perspective to help solve a problem. We’ve long known the health of our resident killer whales depends on the abundance of their primary food source: salmon. But monitoring the whales’ condition over time has always been a challenge.

In 2015, we collected never-before-seen images of critically endangered Southern Resident killer whales to form a basis for comparison in the years to come. It’s all thanks to “Mobley,” a custom-built hexacopter on loan from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. For the second year in a row, a research team led by our senior marine mammal scientist, Dr. Lance Barrett-Lennard, used this technology to gather detailed images of 77 Northern Resident killer whales while expanding the program to include the Southern Residents.

This eye in the sky enabled them to take precise measurements of the whales’ length and girth, monitor pregnancies and take note of social behaviours, such as food-sharing. They even discovered the occasional dolphin tagging along with the pods. In addition to providing solid baseline data to monitor long-term whale health and manage salmon fisheries, this work is also helping to establish regulations and best practices on using drones in aquatic research.

Also this year, the Aquarium’s Coastal Ocean Research Institute continued to position itself as a much-needed conduit for collaborative research efforts, overseeing our Howe Sound Research Group, the Marine Mammal Research Program and the Ocean Pollution Research Program. We were also excited to expand into a new research lab where our experts continue to conduct their work.

Killer whale research with hexacopters video and photo credit: Vancouver Aquarium and NOAA.

Stats

  • 10,664 Cetacean sightings reported to our B.C. Cetacean Sightings Network
  • 6,587 Hours spent underwater studying marine life in Howe Sound
  • 3,600 Nautical miles surveyed by our research vessel Skana
  • 1,041 Oregon spotted and northern leopard frog tadpoles released into the wild
  • 81 Southern resident killer whales photographed and measured
  • 76 Hours of recording beluga whale vocalizations in the High Arctic
  • 13 Species of rockfish identified in our rockfish abundance surveys

Take Action

Our oceans need our help, and the Vancouver Aquarium is a great place to start. The more of us who pitch in, the better our world will be. Please consider contributing to our research or providing financial support to us as a not-for-profit organization.

Consider adopting a whale in the wild through our Wild Killer Whale Adoption Program.

Share your powers of observation with our BC Cetacean Sightings Network.

Join the Howe Sound Group to contribute to the monitoring, research and conservation of fish and invertebrates in Howe Sound.

Support our Ocean Pollution Research or Beluga Research programs.

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Expanding Our Reach, Inspiring More Minds

We believe every child should be able to experience the ocean — no matter where they live or how they learn. This year, we expanded our educational facilities and programs to reach even more students.

In October, we opened the Betsy and Winslow Bennett Learning Lab, an immersive educational space tailored to give kids a glimpse of life under the ocean’s surface. Featuring three distinct aquatic ecosystems, students from kindergarten to Grade 12 can see first-hand how many West Coast creatures interact in their environment. The space also includes an interactive mural that highlights the impact of marine pollution and communicates our conservation message in a way that’s accessible to all students, regardless of age, ability, or language.

In June, we began piloting our virtual learning programs to connect even more kids with Aquarium experts and educators. Using Google Hangouts, a free, web-based application, countless students across Canada and the world can now experience our galleries, exhibits and educational programs. Meanwhile, we expanded our French language instruction, with nearly half our programs now bilingual. We also opened up our clubs to non-members and continued to develop our home-learners series. It’s all part of our commitment to ensuring kids from coast to coast, and all the landlocked locales in between, have the opportunity to learn about, and protect, our underwater world.

Stats

  • 70,133 Teaching hours provided by staff and volunteers
  • 29,247 Community members engaged in AquaZone and AquaVan programs
  • 21,850 Students participated in onsite education programs
  • 1,334 Children embraced aquatic learning through day camps
  • 178 Students engaged in virtual education programs
  • 94 Days of programming in 90 schools and 41 communities through AquaVan

Take Action

Our oceans need our help, and the Vancouver Aquarium is a great place to start. Please consider supporting our conservation efforts by taking part in one of our education programs.

Think about booking the AquaVan, or making a donation to the Bennett Bursary to send students to the Aquarium.

Give your child an educational experience never to be forgotten and register for AquaCamp.

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Avery Hayes
Holly O'Dea
Jessica and Josh Dunham

Ambassadors Keep Our Community Engaged

Leading by example is the best way to inspire change. Our ambassadors do that every day when they volunteer, donate, or participate in conservation efforts in their communities. But sometimes even our own team needs a reminder of the part we play in building a brighter future for our oceans. This year, that reminder came from Kate Le Souef, manager of the Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup, presented by Loblaw Companies Ltd.

While overseeing a national program that saw nearly 2,000 cleanups and collected more than 175,900 kilograms of trash in 2015, Le Souef also brought the spotlight back to our own backyard. To highlight the fact that anyone anywhere can organize a shoreline cleanup at any time of year, she spearheaded monthly cleanups in Stanley Park this fall. In the process, she inspired Aquarium employees who hadn’t had an opportunity to get involved in her program to roll up their sleeves and pitch in.

By bringing Shoreline Cleanup, a joint effort between the Aquarium and WWF-Canada, back to its roots, Le Souef helped reaffirm one of our core beliefs: it doesn’t take much to make a measurable impact. From September to December, our Aquarium team collected more than 50 kilograms of trash from different areas surrounding Stanley Park during our lunchtime cleanups.

For Le Souef, combating marine pollution is a matter of motivating people by focusing on the successes, big and small. “This is not an insurmountable problem,” she says. “We created it. We can fix it.”

Stats

  • 1,116,075 Visitors contributed to aquatic conservation through a visit to the Vancouver Aquarium
  • 105,000 Donated volunteer hours to help protect aquatic life
  • 26,007 Member households supporting conservation
  • 477 Employees committed to conserving our natural world

Take Action

Our oceans need our help, and the Vancouver Aquarium is a great place to start. Please consider getting involved and supporting our conservation efforts by volunteering your time.

Explore volunteering at the Aquarium.

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Night at the Aquarium

Night at the Aquarium, presented by PCL Construction Group Inc., is our signature fundraising gala.

Photo taken at the Vancouver Aquarium Toast to the Coast event

Toast to the Coast

Vancouver’s hottest ticket, Toast to the Coast, presented by CIBC, is a chic fundraising event with an urban edge featuring delicious Ocean Wise tastings, BC wines and an incredible silent auction.

Photo taken at the Vancouver Aquarium's Ocean Wise Chowder Chowdown event

Ocean Wise Chowder Chowdown

Canada’s top chefs compete live with their original, sustainable chowders for the coveted title of Ocean Wise Chowder Chowdown Champion in Vancouver, Calgary and Toronto. Guests are invited to sample delectable chowders, with paired beers, and cast their vote for People’s Choice.

Photo taken at the Vancouver Aquarium's Dreamnight event

Dreamnight

On this special night, we open our doors to more than 500 children living with life-threatening illnesses and their families. As many of these children are unable to visit during regular hours, Dreamnight, presented by Shaw Communications, provides an opportunity for our guests to connect with aquatic life in a private setting.

Kicking up Our Heels for a Good Cause

There is so much to celebrate at the Vancouver Aquarium and we do it in style. Our signature events offer a chance to create connections, catch up with our supporters, and give back to our community.

Dreamnight is a very special evening dedicated to celebrating courageous children with chronic and life-threatening illnesses. This year, more than 600 children and their families experienced an enchanting night at the Aquarium while staff and volunteers donated their time to bring some light into their lives. Dreamnight is without a doubt the most inspiring event we host throughout the year

Toast to the Coast, presented by CIBC, brings together business leaders and young professionals to celebrate the bounty of our beautiful B.C. coast while learning how to protect it. This sassy soiree pairs delicious Ocean Wise bites with libations from B.C. vineyards and brewers. Proceeds support our conservation, research and education programs.

Night at the Aquarium is our premier fundraising gala of the year. Presented by PCL Construction Group Inc., this philanthropic gathering offered inspiring entertainment and Ocean Wise eats while raising nearly $400,000 for Aquarium programs in 2015.

Our Ocean Wise Chowder Chowdown cook-offs were popular as ever this year. Dozens of chefs in Vancouver, Toronto and Calgary served up an array of sustainable seafood to hundreds of hungry Canadians in support of Ocean Wise. The competition even spilled over to Wolfville, N.S., which held its first Ocean Wise Chowder Smackdown this year in partnership with the Devour Film Festival. Cheers to all who raised a glass in support of our programs.

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Ricoh Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup
Vancouver Airport Authority Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup
CIBC Presenting Sponsor at Toast to the Coast
BG Canada supporting AquaVan programs
Port Metro Vancouver at the Marine Mammal Rescue Centre Open House

Corporate Community Steps Up to the Plate

We couldn’t do the work we do without the generosity of our corporate partners and sponsors. We are always grateful for the support we receive and delighted to see our corporate supporters take our conservation message to heart.

This year, Ricoh Canada stepped into its role as national sponsor of the Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup, spearheading three national Shoreline Cleanups and diverting more than 1,600 kilograms of garbage from our waterways. Meanwhile, nearly 1,000 Ricoh customers, staff and family members participated in 51 registered Shoreline Cleanups in smaller communities across Canada.

In B.C., the Vancouver Airport Authority helped us collect more than 700 kilograms of trash from Iona Beach as provincial sponsor of the Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup. CIBC returned as presenting partner for our annual Toast to the Coast, bringing 650 people together to help us raise more than $165,000 for conservation, research and education programs.

Prince Rupert LNG ensured kids all over the province have access to our educational resources as co-presenting sponsor of our AquaVan while supporting cetacean research along B.C.’s north coast through funding the B.C. Cetacean Sightings Network in Prince Rupert.

We thank all our partners for their generous contributions and look forward to another year of working together.

Board & Patrons

Patrons

We would like to extend a warm thank you to our Patrons for their significant and valued contributions to aquatic conservation. To be nominated as a Patron is the Aquarium’s highest level of recognition.

  • Marilyn and Dr. Stewart Blusson, O.C.
  • Joanne and Peter Brown, O.B.C.
  • May Brown, C.M., O.B.C
  • Nicole Clouthier
  • Ursula (Kim) Fisher
  • Margaret Fisher
  • The Honourable John A. Fraser, O.C., O.B.C
  • Don and Margaret Garnett
  • Isabelle J. Graham
  • W.R. Hourston
  • Mary C. Jordan
  • Lily and Robert H. Lee, C.M., O.B.C
  • Lucile and Dr. Peter MacKay
  • Dr. Patrick McGeer, O.C., O.B.C. and Edith McGeer
  • Katherine Newman
  • The Honourable John L. Nichol, C.C. and Roseanne Nichol
  • Rudy North, C.M. and Patricia North
  • Jim Pattison, O.C., O.B.C and Mary Pattison
  • Jane Rogers
  • Jane E. Van Roggen, C.M.
  • Brooke and Tracey Wade
  • Shirley Waldichuk
  • Maurice and Stacy White

In memory

  • Patricia Angus
  • Joanne and William Barker
  • Graham R. Dawson
  • Flo FitzGerald
  • James S. Graham
  • Dr. William S. Hoar, O.C.
  • Joyce MacCrostie Shives
  • Robert E. McLaren
  • Dr. Ian McTaggart-Cowan, O.C., O.B.C.
  • Dr. Murray A. Newman, C.M., O.B.C
  • Arthur Phillips
  • The Honourable Robert G. Rogers
  • P.R. Sandwell
  • Jean MacMillan Southam, C.M.
  • Walt Walmesley
  • Mary Margaret and Maurice Young

Board of Directors

  • Barbara Atkinson
  • Pam Boparai
  • Rizwan Gehlen
  • Brian Hanna
  • David Harper
  • Stephen Holmes
  • Doug Horswill
  • Janet Landucci, Chair
  • James Lyman
  • Marian MacFarlane
  • Nicholas Miller
  • Shelley-Mae Mitchell
  • Derral Moriyama
  • Randy Pratt
  • David Rebak
  • Margot Spence
  • Dixie Sullivan
  • John Webster

Govenors' Council

Members of our Governors’ Council are former Directors and who continue to serve the Aquarium with passion, dedication and commitment. We extend our deepest gratitude for their contributions.

  • Amyn Abdula
  • D. Ainsworth
  • Joan Anderson
  • Dr. David Anderson
  • Betsy Bennett
  • Ron Bertram
  • Mark Betteridge
  • Judy Bishop
  • Dale Boniface
  • Daniel Bouillon
  • Richard Bradshaw
  • Jacob Brouwer
  • Karen Bruk
  • Mary Buttery
  • Stephanie Carlson
  • Patricia Chew
  • James Christakos
  • Karen Cook
  • Marian Coombs-Bucci
  • Allan Copping
  • Dr. Isabelle Coté
  • Ian Davidson
  • Mike Delesalle
  • Count Enrico Dobrzensky
  • Edward Donaldson
  • Gary Duke
  • Peter Dutton
  • Alissa Ehrenkranz
  • Christine Elliott
  • Dr. R. English
  • Tom English
  • Pauline Fairley
  • Dr. Ward Falkner
  • Mary-Ann Fowler
  • Allen Fowlis
  • Russell Fraser
  • Kenneth Galbraith
  • Robert Gayton
  • Jim Gillis
  • Richard Glickman
  • Joseph Granato
  • Sally Greenwood
  • Steve Halliday
  • Patti Hanneson-Hatch
  • Robert Harper
  • David Harris
  • Kirk Herrington
  • Diane Hill
  • James Ho
  • Dr. David Hoar
  • Dr. Akira Horii
  • Stephen Hume
  • Ainsley Jackson
  • Lawrence Jacobson
  • David James
  • Mary Jordan
  • Bob Joseph
  • Graham Lee
  • Samantha Legge
  • Donald Lindsay
  • Dr. Casimir Lindsey
  • Fraser Liptrot
  • Dan London
  • David Main
  • Jane Maisonville-Phillips
  • Peter Malcolm
  • Sarah McAlpine
  • Grace McCarthy
  • Dr. Scott McKinley
  • Bruce McLean
  • Grant Mebs
  • Peter Miles
  • Dr. Lynn Miller
  • Dr. Thomas G. Northcote
  • Dr. Phil Nuytten
  • Beverley O'Neil
  • Derek Page
  • Scott Palmer
  • Ryan Patryluk
  • Joyce Pearkes
  • Anne Penman
  • Dr. Tony Pitcher
  • Suzanne Poole
  • George Puil
  • Chris Reid
  • Dr. John Reynolds
  • R. John Rogers
  • Dan Rollins
  • Dr. Richard Routledge
  • Don Safnuk
  • Michael Satterfield
  • Leo Sauve
  • Tristan Sawtell
  • Dr. Joseph Segal, O.C., O.B.C.
  • Richard Self
  • Wei Shao
  • Paddy Sherman
  • Shawn Siak
  • Audrey Sojonky
  • Bruce Sprague
  • David Stadnyk
  • Daniel Steiner
  • Mark Stevens
  • Ray Stevenson
  • Eileen Stewart
  • Dr. Eric Taylor
  • Bonnie Teng
  • Andrea Thomas Hill
  • Gerry Thorne
  • Dr. Sheila Thornton
  • Mark Tindle
  • Kenneth Tolmie
  • Dr. Andrew Trites
  • Chuck van der Lee
  • Cameron Walker
  • Paul Williams
  • Duncan Wilson
  • Lisa Woodward
  • Norm Yurik

Take Action

Our oceans need our help, and the Vancouver Aquarium is a great place to start. Please consider supporting our conservation efforts by providing financial support to us as a not-for-profit organization. You can take action in all kinds of ways, and every little bit means a whole lot.

Buy a membership and you'll experience a whole new level of access to the Aquarium and our incredible marine life.

Attend one of our festive signature fundraising events.

Provide much-needed and greatly appreciated financial support through your company or on your own.