What does an aquarium have to do to get a majority of people on Yelp give it a one-star review? First, have it run by people who’ve been arrested for illegally acquiring animals. Second, let children stick their hands into the tanks to ensure that your fish are stressed out and miserable. Third, let all your visitors feed the fish for an additional fee (how could overfeeding possibly harm a fish?). Fourth, locate your so-called “aquarium” in a former steakhouse. Welcome to the Portland Aquarium, which opened last December not in Portland, but in Milwaukie.
The Portland Aquarium’s co-owner Ammon Covino was arrested last month in Boise over allegations that he illegally purchased animals for his other establishment, the Idaho Aquarium. Covino was accused of purchasing protected marine animals, including spotted eagle rays and lemon sharks. Two lemon sharks were confiscated in February and the aquarium was shut down for a day.
Due to the conditions at the Portland Aquarium, some people would love to see it shut down, too. Facebook’s “Boycott Portland Aquarium” page has more than 150 “Likes.” Comments on Yelp range from complaints about children throwing pieces of pizza into the fish tanks to cramped cages, a dearth of hand-washing stations, unsanitary communal towels, and overfed/ill fish.
Finally, back to those touch tanks, which are found in both the Idaho and Portland aquariums. Anyone who’s ever owned a home aquarium knows that you’re not supposed to place your hands in the tank, much less try and touch the fish. It’s bad for the water quality and it stresses the fish. Letting everyone feed the fish compounds the problem. Most fish in home aquariums die from overfeeding, because fish don’t know when to stop eating.
Allowing visitors to touch and feed the fish is the opposite of education, given that it’s so harmful. It also spreads the belief that animals exist merely for our entertainment. Let’s just hope the otter and puffin exhibits stay empty at the Portland Aquarium, because reviewers on Yelp are already commenting negatively on these “painfully small, windowless environments.”
This is guesswork. I haven’t been there. But I’m going to give this one a miss.
by Jen Matteis