A New Vision For the Seattle Aquarium
The Seattle Aquarium, a respected authority on the Salish Sea and the Pacific Northwest’s largest platform for ocean conservation and engagement, is taking a bold step to advance our mission, Inspiring Conservation of Our Marine Environment, within and beyond our walls.
With the health of Earth’s one ocean at risk, that mission matters more than ever. We have a vision to make ocean conservation a global imperative, a community value and a deeply personal priority for all, starting on Seattle's waterfront.
Advancing Our Mission With The World’s First Planet-Positive Aquarium Campus
To achieve this vision, we’ve launched a multiphase expansion to create a world-class, regenerative campus—meaning one that will produce more environmental benefits than harm—to help ensure a climate-resilient, sustainable future for all. We will become the world’s first planet-positive aquarium, meeting next-generation sustainability standards for climate impact, energy and water use.
Far more than just a physical expansion, this transformation will allow us to dramatically broaden our work: deepening existing efforts, such as our species recovery program and partnerships in the Coral Triangle, and engaging more than 1.5 million people every year in robust ocean conservation education and inspiring encounters with marine life. Through this historic effort, we will cultivate an ocean ethic—an ethos of care and action on behalf of marine life—for generations to come, and advance our work to foster empathy to reinforce the connections between people and the ocean.
In the first phase of our transformation, we’re building a new extension to our facility—the Ocean Pavilion—and an off-site animal care center.
Preview what’s coming in the KIRO feature story “An inside look at Seattle Aquarium’s expansion plans.”
The Ocean Pavilion
Adjacent and just to the east of the existing Seattle Aquarium, the Ocean Pavilion will amplify our existing global conservation efforts and inspire a worldwide ocean ethic by bringing visitors face-to-face with tropical species native to the Coral Triangle, a marine biodiversity hot spot in the Indo-Pacific. The 3,500 sustainably-sourced animals that will live in the Ocean Pavilion are members of complex and delicate tropical reef ecosystems. The Aquarium plans for its new habitats to house apex predators (sharks and rays), fish (wrasses, grouper, trevally, butterflyfish and others), up to 30 species of corals, anemones, sea stars, giant clams and other marine life. The habitats will also feature mangrove trees—critical sources of shelter young fish. By highlighting the interconnected nature of marine ecosystems, the Ocean Pavilion will allow visitors to see how losing even a single species has a devastating ripple effect.
This center for ocean advocacy will invite visitors to explore new corners of our one world ocean and understand how our actions, from Seattle to Indonesia, affect our ocean and planet—and how animals on the other side of the ocean are threatened by the same human impacts as those here in the Pacific Northwest.
This physical expansion is fueling the expansion of our conservation programs, catalyzing the launch of international partnerships to co-create innovative solutions to save species from extinction, support climate-resilient coastal communities and build capacity for locally led conservation initiatives. It will also significantly expand and complement our current conservation and education efforts focused on Pacific Northwest marine life and further our efforts to create a robust education and interpretation experience inside and outside the Aquarium—allowing us to connect even more people with the ocean and deepen our civic impact.
The expanded Aquarium will be an unparalleled platform for ocean conservation and serve as the magnificent centerpiece for our city’s waterfront. The Ocean Pavilion will be a powerful experience that people of all abilities can share. It will be transformative for the Aquarium, the waterfront, Seattle and our Pacific Northwest region. Highlights:
- Create a space that supports the Aquarium’s mission and provides the public with an experience that helps them understand there’s one world ocean: all waters and communities are connected, and what happens here is directly linked to ocean health around the globe.
- An inclusive exhibit experience, designed in collaboration with experts at the Institute for Human Centered Design, to ensure that exhibits are attuned to the full spectrum of visitor abilities, sensory needs and access.
- Provide opportunities for public open space and enjoyment of the shoreline, including increasing accessibility between Pike Place Market and the waterfront via the Ocean Pavilion’s rooftop and Overlook Walk.
- Accommodate a 40% increase in expected visitors to Seattle’s historic waterfront and Aquarium attendance, which requires an approximately 48,000-square-foot building and pedestrian and Americans with Disabilities Act pathways.
- Provide a connection with the existing Seattle Aquarium to facilitate movement of visitors, volunteers and staff, and to support Aquarium programming.
Animal Care Center
In support of our marine conservation work, the Aquarium has also established an off-site animal care center to serve a variety of important functions:
- Headquarters for key conservation efforts, including plastics pollution research and our species recovery program, through which we’re working to restore endangered species such as pinto abalone here in Washington—and soon, Indo-Pacific leopard sharks in the Coral Triangle.
- Provide temporary, healthy and stable habitats for the plants and animals that will eventually make their homes in the Ocean Pavilion. After the new building opens, the animal care center will continue to provide back-of-house facilities for the Ocean Pavilion’s operations.
- Serve as the new hub for our animal rehabilitation efforts, especially sea turtles found stranded and cold-stunned in the Pacific Northwest—such as Shi Shi the green sea turtle, for whom we provided critical care in late 2021.