All About that Aquatic Life

He had a vision of a “catch-and-release” facility, focused on local species, interactivity, and an open display style.

In the spring of 2004, Philip Bruecker’s vision came to life. The Ucluelet Mini Aquarium was launched as a trial project on the Ucluelet waterfront.The success of the pilot project lead to the establishment of the Ucluelet Aquarium Society, a non-profit to manage and expand the aquarium. Today, thanks to thousands of volunteer hours, contributions from local businesses, government support, Blue Sky Architecture, and many local tradespeople, a permanent shoreline structure welcomes thousands of visitors a year.

To stock the pools, the annual species collection begins in the winter. With Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) permitting in place, select animals are carefully captured using a variety of methods. Whether scuba diving, trapping, or low-tide gathering, capture specifics are meticulously noted so each animal can be returned to its origin within Barkley or Clayoquot Sound. The process involves species-specific care and health monitoring prior to release.

The exhibit is closely integrated with the outside environment. Drawing water directly from the harbour, many species get inadvertently introduced to the tank. From microscopic algae to baby crabs, many of these species feed and enhance the ecosystem within, creating a more natural and authentic representation of the local biosphere.

Beyond the walls of the aquarium, the organization is also involved with many important research projects and initiatives to raise awareness about local marine biodiversity and promote respect for the ocean environment. They treat visitors from all over the world to a very personal view of the fish and invertebrates from our local waters in Clayoquot and Barkley Sounds.

Now open for the season (March 1, 2023), the Ucluelet Aquarium is a must-see stop on your next coastal trip. To learn more, check out their website:

Another marine lover must-do is the Pacific Rim Whale Festival happening March 17-25, 2023. This annual festival is a mix of art, education, eats, and cultural events, for all ages; in celebration of the return of the migrating Pacific Grey Whales. Check out their calendar of events:


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