Aquatic ecosystems are challenging for humans to explore. Most of our observations of aquatic life are superficial, being made from the water's edge or surface. Aquariums reveal the underwater world, a world that covers 80% of the Earth's surface and is usually hidden from our view. By discovering and understanding something about aquatic life, aquarium visitors become aware of the value of aquatic life and the need to protect and preserve it. Aquariums perform a vital role educating people about aquatic conservation.
The Vancouver Aquarium also takes direct action in conservation. Aquarium staff and volunteers have been involved in the creation of Canada's first no-take Marine Protected Area, beach clean-ups, wetlands restorations and rehabilitations, aquatic bird and intertidal population surveys and much more. The Aquarium's mission also includes the research of aquatic life. One current research project involves learning why Steller sea lions are disappearing from many of their natural habitats. Aquarium researchers and scientists are also actively studying other marine mammals at the Aquarium and in the field, including killer whales, belugas, sea otters and harbour seals. Other researchers are revealing the unknown early life stages of the wolf-eel as well as sculpins, lingcod, blennies, shrimp, snailfish and other local fish species.
Fish need water just as humans need air. Water carries life-giving oxygen to fish and aquatic invertebrates, and disperses wastes such as carbon dioxide, urine and feces. The Aquarium gets its fresh water from the City of Vancouver water system and its salt water from the ocean. Salt water is pumped up to the Aquarium from 14 metres below the surface of Burrard Inlet. The salt water is filtered and cleaned twice, once when it arrives and once when it leaves the Aquarium, before it is returned by pipe to the Inlet. The salt water used in the Arctic Gallery is cooled by chillers. The heat generated by the working chillers is piped to the Amazon Gallery. Water used in the tropical galleries is also warmed by heaters.
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