Shaw Centre for the Salish Sea
Our Impact Why We Exist
Located on the breathtaking Sidney waterfront - on the traditional lands of the W̱SÁNEĆ Nations of the Coast Salish Indigenous peoples - the Shaw Centre for the Salish Sea is a key tourist attraction and destination as Canada’s only aquarium and cultural centre dedicated exclusively to the Salish Sea Bioregion of BC. A fun, interactive and informative experience of science and culture to young and old, the Centre combines live aquarium habitats and marine mammal artifact displays (science & nature) with a permanent Coast Salish art collection (arts & culture), to provide an amazing opportunity for learning, exploration, and conservation of the natural beauty, ecological diversity, and cultural story of the Salish Sea.
Our Story What We Do
As a not-for-profit community organization, the Shaw Centre for the Salish Sea connects the public with the Salish Sea Bioregion and its ecosystems through engagement, knowledge and awareness. This one-of-a-kind Centre offers an interactive, informative and hands-on experience with nature and culture through self-guided visits, daily programs, group and school bookings, and special events and lectures. It is the only year-round aquarium and cultural centre in Canada dedicated exclusively to the Salish Sea.
The Salish Sea is a bio-rich 110,000 square km inland sea and coastal watershed area of British Columbia and Washington State named for its original habitants, the Coast Salish Indigenous peoples, and now home to 8 million people. Known for its keystone animals – the endangered southern resident orca, pacific salmon and grizzly bear - it is one of Canada's most diverse ecosystems. A place of significant heritage and culture shared by over 70 Coast Salish First Nations including the local W̱SÁNEĆ or "Saltwater People", who have sustainably interacted with the ocean, watershed and lands for over ten thousands years, including the naming of the places, animals and spirits of their traditional territories in their SENĆOŦEN language.
The Centre tells the Salish Sea story through 160 available, on-the-floor volunteers, and specialized staff scientists and educators:
- 28 aquarium habitats holding over 160 live marine species with over 3,500 animals including a giant pacific octopus, wolf eels, and pacific salmon, and a fun ‘hands-on’ Touch Pool experience
- A rare, fully intact killer whale skeleton and marine mammal artifact display
- A unique collection of Coast Salish Indigenous art
- A Salish Sea Store with one-of-a-kind, locally sourced, Salish Sea and Coast Salish-focused, and environmentally-friendly arts, jewellery and crafts
- Public programming and self-guided tours to over 72,000 visitors annually including 10,000 school-aged students experiencing curriculum-based programs and summer camps.
Our Programs How We Do It
School Programs: environmental education programs for school groups of kids ranging in age from pre-school up to grade 12. The curriculum of the programs are all directly linked to grade-specific BC Ministry of Education Prescribed Learning Outcomes.
Summer Camps: Week-long and day camps that get kids learning about nature IN nature through hands on, hands wet educational modules, beach explorations, microscope work, ecocruises, and more. The camps are for ages 4 to 6 (Barnacle Buddies) and 6 to 10 (Salish Sea School).
Tot Tuesdays: An hour-long educational and activities-based program offered once a week to parents and their little ones. Includes ocean-related story time, crafts, and games.
Senior Sessions: A special hour-long guided tour (offered every Thursday) designed specifically to meet the needs of seniors, i.e. additional seating, quieted background noise, refreshments. Each week is a new ocean-related topic; the tour includes an introductory educational presentation and Q&A with a Lead Oceaneer, as well as a close examination of each of the aquarium's exhibits.
Floating Ideas Lecture Series: Every month, a new guest from the field of science, arts and culture, and the environment (with a focus on the Salish Sea) presents an evening lecture/presentation.
Oceaneer Enrichment: When aquarium guests have questions, they turn to one of our volunteers for the answers, and since our goal at the aquarium is to provide an unparalleled educational experience to each of our visitors, volunteer training is critical. We invest a great deal of staff time and resources into cultivating Oceaneer education.
What You Can Do
Help us share the story of the Salish Sea, every day.
The Centre is a community project. Located in the Sidney Pier Hotel & Spa (through a donation of the Town of Sidney & Marker Group), the Centre is operated by the The New Marine Centre Society and its volunteer Board of Directors. As a not-for-profit organization, the Centre relies on community support through admission fees, partnerships and donations including Title Sponsor - Shaw Communications. The Centre is operated by an Executive Director, Senior Managers, and Board, as well as a team of highly dedicated staff of Marine Biologists (Aquarists), Educators, and Customer Experience professionals, as well as over 160 volunteers. Click here for the Centre’s organizational chart. Click here to see all of our partners.
With over 72,000 visitors last year, including over 2,200 new members, we are one of Vancouver Island’s premier attractions and learning destinations. Although over 30% of our visitors are tourists, the rest are locals – people like you – who attend with a school group, or your family, and who continue to support us every day as we strive toward a vision for a healthy and sustainable Salish Sea!
Unfortunately, our aquarium and cultural centre cannot rely on admissions and memberships alone; we depend on additional donations and sponsorship from the community every year. In fact, each year we need to raise tens of thousands of dollars to support:
· Hundreds of BC curriculum-based programs – delivered by specialized marine science educators - to 10,000 local students and summer camps to over 150 youth
· Maintaining a 24 Hour-A-Day LIFE SUPPORT SYSTEM to keep the 30 aquarium habitats running smoothly; as well as keeping our 10,000 sq ft facility (lighting, a/c, projectors, seating, etc.) in top shape.
· Food and care for over 3,500 live Salish Sea animals making up over 160 species
· Local champions/volunteers in the field of art, science, education, culture, and the environment through their presentation of lecture series, workshops, exhibits, and conservation content and advice
All donations receive a full charitable tax receipt. To make a donation go to https://www.salishseacentre.org/donate-1/.