'Our mission is to spark curiosity for marine life': New aquarium proposed for Dartmouth waterfront

A group looking to build an aquarium on the Dartmouth waterfront says their plans are gaining momentum.

Though still in the early stages, The Back to the Sea Society is looking to raise public and private funding to support the project.

Magali Grégoire founded the Back to the Sea Society in 2016.

"Our mission is to spark curiosity for marine life," said Grégoire, who is the society’s executive director.

Grégoire said she wants to inspire people to protect the ocean. In addition, she has bigger plans in place.

“Our ultimate goal is to open a community aquarium along the Dartmouth waterfront," said Grégoire.

She hopes to have the aquarium built by 2025. It would house a variety of ocean species.

"No mammals, said Grégoire. “All animals that can fit within a collective ‘hold and release’ philosophy."

Grégoire has already set up a pilot-project touch tank along the Dartmouth waterfront that allows visitors to see invertebrates such as sea stars, urchins, and crabs. Grégoire wants interest in the facility to spark government and corporate support needed to help build an aquarium within the next four years.

"We have started those conversations and so far the response has been very positive," said Grégoire.

For the aquarium idea to become a reality, Grégoire will request funding from the federal and provincial governments, as well as private donors.

Tim Rissesco from the Downtown Dartmouth Business Commission said a possible aquarium would bring tourist revenues to the Dartmouth side of the harbour.

"As well, it will provide another community asset,” said Rissesco. “It would be a place for the community to gather and for schools to visit."

Both Grégoire and Rissesco suggest the aquarium would be a modest-sized building.

"We are looking at about an 8,000 square-foot facility,” said Grégoire. “About 2,000 square feet dedicated to exhibit space."

Grégoire also said a new aquarium would likely not have huge scale tanks, like those found in bigger aquariums around North America.