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Oregon Coast Aquarium Celebrates 30 Years This Week

Published 05/20/22 at 4:25 AM PST
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Oregon Coast Aquarium Celebrates 30 Years This Week

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(Newport, Oregon) – A major attraction on the Oregon coast celebrates 30 years of existence this week. Since 1992, the Oregon Coast Aquarium in Newport has been supporting marine life, showing off countless oceanic wonders to over two generations and has been inspiring ocean conservation. (Photos courtesy Oregon Coast Aquarium)

The aquarium opened its doors on May 23 of that year, after eight years of planning and fundraising. It was originally founded with the idea of stimulating the economy in Yaquina Bay as well as serving Newport residents. Within its first nine months it had seen one million visitors, and has continued serving up the astounding sights over the decades with new exhibits and additions.

In 1996 came its moment in the international spotlight when it took in Keiko the whale, the orca that had been in the movies, namely Free Willy. Keiko had grown up in captivity and not always in healthy conditions, which was partially why his dorsal fin was folded over to one side. It gave the killer whale a signature look great for branding, but it was a sad reminder that he was in need of a better home. Oregon Coast Aquarium provided that, building a massive new tank for his rehabilitation.

Underweight and not in great spirits when he arrived, the aquarium nursed him back to health and he gained significant weight, serving as an impressive attraction for two years. In 1998, in a mammoth procession through Newport, he was transported by special vehicle to a cargo plane, and then lifted off to Klettsvík, Iceland. There, he lived in an enclosed pen for a time as he was slowly reacclimated to the wild. A short time after his release, Keiko sadly died in open waters of what scientists believe was pneumonia.

Oregon Coast Aquarium then made more waves in Newport and throughout the northwest by installing the Passages of the Deep – a long, window-like tube that allowed the public to walk through a habitat of sharks and other creatures.

In 2000, the aquarium received accreditation by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums, a status it continues to maintain, denoting the highest standard of animal care and welfare.

Throughout the last three decades, the aquarium continues to demonstrate its commitment to coastal communities and ocean advocacy, all the while providing an overwhelming display of wild and colorful denizens of the sea, as well as an aviary with an awe-inspiring bird display.

“The Aquarium began as an idea to encourage growth in our coastal communities, and over the last thirty years we’ve done that and so much more,” said aquarium President and CEO Carrie Lewis. “We’ve rehabilitated endangered species, we’ve fostered strong ties with our community partners, and we’ve introduced millions to the splendor of the Oregon coast. The next thirty years are bound to be just as rewarding.”

It has featured over 300 species in its time in Newport.

Oregon Coast Aquarium is located at 2820 S.E. Ferry Slip Rd., Newport, OR. aquarium.org, 541-867-3474.

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