Today, the Vancouver Aquarium looks back at 56 years of life-changing conservation, research, and education work, and bringing the wonders of marine life to the world. As we celebrate our 56th birthday, we’d like to take a step back to revisit our history with you, and share some key milestones that have helped us become the aquarium you know today:

  • In 1951, the Vancouver Aquarium was first formed as the Vancouver Public Aquarium Association. However, on June 15, 1956, we officially became Canada’s first public aquarium and opened our doors to the public.
  • In 1965, Vancouver Aquarium began its first education program.

Education supervisor Mical Middaugh engages young minds as part of the Aquarium's first education programs in 1965. Photo Credit: Vancouver Aquarium


  • In 1975, we became the first aquarium accredited by the American Zoo and Aquarium Association (AZA).
  • In 1984, renowned Haida artist Bill Reid’s killer whale sculpture, “Chief of the Undersea World,” was unveiled as a gift to the Aquarium. The sculpture resides at the former entrance of the Aquarium.

Renowned Haida artist Bill Reid's killer whale sculpture, "Chief of the Undersea World", is unveiled as a gift to the Aquarium in 1984. Photo Credit: John Seale


  • In 1987, we were also accredited by the Canadian Association of Zoos and Aquariums (CAZA) and were designated Canada’s Pacific National Aquarium by the Canadian Federal Government.
  • In 1992, Vancouver Aquarium launched the Wild Killer Whale Adoption Program to raise support for ground-breaking research on wild killer whales and other cetaceans – research that is proving essential in the effort to protect these magnificent animals and their habitat.
  • In 1994, Vancouver Aquarium volunteers began cleaning local shorelines in Stanley Park. This effort eventually evolved to become the Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup, one of the largest Canadian direct action cleanup programs.

The Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup becomes a national program in 2002, a joint collaboration between the Vancouver Aquarium and WWF. Photo Credit: Vancouver Aquarium


  • In 1999, the B.C. Cetacean Sightings Network was formed in collaboration with Fisheries and Oceans Canada as an opportunity for members of the public to report their cetacean sightings and aid research efforts.
  • In 2005, Vancouver Aquarium launched Ocean Wise, a seafood sustainability program aimed to educate and empower consumers, retailers, and producers about the issues surrounding sustainable seafood.

Over the years, the Aquarium has developed a reputation as one of the leading aquariums in the world, dedicated to the conservation of aquatic life. From a 9,000 square foot (830 square metres) facility in Stanley Park, with seven employees on opening day in 1956 (five more had to be hired the day after the opening to cope with the crowds), the Vancouver Aquarium has grown to over 100,000 square feet (9,000 square metres) and over 400 employees.

As a non-profit society, our efforts to connect people to the natural world is made possible by our visitors, supporters and volunteers. On behalf of our team, thank you for allowing us to do what we love – helping to conserve aquatic life.

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