Alaska SeaLife Center must raise critical funding to prevent permanent closure

The Alaska SeaLife Center (ASLC) announces an urgent public information and fundraising campaign to raise $2 million in funding by September 30. Uniquely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, ASLC will not be able to maintain operations of the Center through the winter due to a lack of summer visitor revenues. ASLC is preparing to do everything possible to change course, including marshaling a combination of public support and funding opportunities.

Due to being closed for two months, the lack of summer visitors, and travel restrictions caused by COVID-19, ASLC expects annual visitor revenues to be reduced by 70%. The Center is completely dependent on summer visitors, typically seeing 90% of guests between May and September.

“Aquariums like ASLC are especially vulnerable during this difficult time because we can’t reduce operating costs like most businesses—we can’t just shut the doors, turn off the lights and furlough staff,” said President and CEO Tara Riemer. “We need to maintain good animal care, maintain the building, and keep seawater pumping throughout the building every minute of every day.”

Closing ASLC would be a permanent decision. Animals would be sent to other facilities, staff would be laid off, the keys of the building would be turned over to the City of Seward, and ASLC would turn off the seawater pumps that are the building’s life support. This action cannot be undone.

“The Alaska SeaLife Center is important, not just to Alaskans but to the world. It’s a key part of Alaska’s tourism infrastructure,” said ASLC Board of Directors Chair Wendy Lindskoog. “Closure of the Center has terrible consequences—the loss of it would be staggering.”

In addition to being a top destination for Alaska’s visitors, the Center is a home for invaluable research about the ocean, arctic and subarctic marine wildlife, climate change, and more. As an important part of Alaska’s science education system, the Center provides educational opportunities to students all around the state and around the world through distance programs.

ASLC will launch a robust fundraising campaign, beginning now and running until September 30 in the hope of reversing course on this trajectory. The board of directors and staff of ASLC implore the world to help support the Center right now in their time of greatest need by visiting, becoming members, or making a donation to the Alaska SeaLife Center. ASLC will also take every opportunity to identify and secure sustaining funds.

Though Alaska’s visitor industry has paused, life goes on at the Center, and so do the needs of the animals. We are thrilled to announce the birth of a female Steller sea lion pup on June 26. The newborn is the offspring of ASLC’s 11-year-old resident male, Pilot, and 17-year-old female, Mara.

“Mara is proving to be a doting, attentive, and protective mom,” states Husbandry Director, Lisa Hartman. As newborn pups cannot swim for several weeks, the team will continue to monitor the pair in a behind the scenes enclosure with supervised water access for Mara. Mara, her pup, and the rest of the animals that reside at the Center continue to get top quality care, in fulfillment of Alaska SeaLife Center’s mission.