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The outside of the Vancouver Aquarium is seen in a Nov. 18, 2016, file photo.

JONATHAN HAYWARD/The Canadian Press

The Vancouver Aquarium says it is facing bankruptcy and could be forced to close permanently if it can’t arrange emergency funding.

A statement from the facility says animal care and habitat costs for 70,000 animals exceed $1-million a month but revenues have dropped to almost zero since the COVID-19 outbreak forced it close last month.

Ocean Wise Conservation Association, which operates the aquarium, says 331 staff members or 60 per cent of the aquarium’s work force, have already been laid off and the remainder are on reduced work weeks.

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The Marine Mammal Rescue Centre, which rescues and rehabilitates injured or abandoned animals has been closed and many other projects have also been cancelled.

The statement says a shutdown of this length is “catastrophic” for the not-for-profit facility and it expects to face bankruptcy by early summer if emergency assistance is not provided.

Ocean Wise CEO Lasse Gustavsson said the “worst case scenario is … permanent closure,” but even reopening by summer will set the facility back years in its ocean conservation, research and other goals.

Randy Pratt, chairman of the Ocean Wise board, called the situation “dire.”

“We can’t let this organization disappear,” he said in the statement. “It brings so much to the community. From educational programs for youth, a much-loved volunteer program, not to mention a place for people to learn about the ocean and why it needs protecting.”

The Vancouver Aquarium has been operating in Stanley Park since 1956 and has a 35-year lease at the site.

Its current collection includes rescued seals, sea lions and otters as well as marine animals native to the Pacific Northwest, and birds, animals, insects and sea life from around the globe.

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Author and journalist Malcolm Gladwell discusses the far-reaching impact of the coronavirus pandemic on refugees, conflict and the economy. Gladwell was in conversation with Rudyard Griffiths from the Munk Debates. The Globe and Mail

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