Life / Travel

New Brunswick aquarium offers education on fish in Eastern Canada

SHIPPAGAN, N.B. — Have you touched a blue lobster lately? That's a question for visitors as they enter the New Brunswick Aquarium and Marine Centre in Shippagan, N.B.

Located on the northeast shore of the province, the aquarium is now in its 35th year, offering visitors a better understanding of aquatic life in Eastern Canada and the fishing industry.

"Visitors have the opportunity to witness our natural heritage here. It's our livelihood here in northern New Brunswick," said Laurent Robichaud, co-ordinator of development and promotion for the centre.

Situated on the waterfront in Shippagan, the centre features a scenic view, a lighthouse built more than a century ago, and an outdoor tank with seals ready to amuse.

"People have an opportunity to see them being fed twice a day. They get to see how smart they are, how fast they are, and the interpreters explain the biology of these amazing animals also," Robichaud said.

Inside, 31 large and colourful tanks can be seen as you wind your way through the aquarium's corridors. Many of the displays include interactive elements.

"We usually have about 100 species, or about 3,000 fish and invertebrates at all times," Robichaud said.  

A large tank in the lobby displays coloured lobsters, ranging from blue to orange to polka-dotted, and some with one colour on one side and a different colour on the other side.

"We even have a lobster that has both sexes. I'm not sure how rare that is, but it's certainly more than one in every 100 million," Robichaud said.

Blue lobsters tend to be the most popular among the 34,000 people who visit every year, he said. Only about one in every four to five million lobsters is blue.

Unlike some aquariums that display exotic bright and colourful tropical fish, the centre in Shippagan highlights aquatic life that can be found in the waters of Eastern Canada.

You'll see large sturgeon, eels, crabs, starfish and many more and get a chance to learn how they live in the wild.

Visitors will also learn that the waters are home to different whales, sharks and even leatherback turtles.

Education and research are important components of the facility, which is visited by about 2,500 school children each year. Most come from New Brunswick, but there are also classes from Quebec and the state of Maine who make the trip. Much of the curriculum is geared towards children in grades 3 to 5.

The province's largest commercial fleet operates from wharfs just a short distance away.

The aquarium is owned and operated by the province of New Brunswick. It is open to the public between June and the end of September each year.

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