SCU community outreach and education program manager Stephan Soule at the Solitary Islands Aquarium which has reopened after a temporary closure due to coronavirus. Photo: Tim Jarrett
SCU community outreach and education program manager Stephan Soule at the Solitary Islands Aquarium which has reopened after a temporary closure due to coronavirus. Photo: Tim Jarrett

Lonely fish ready to emerge from isolation to welcome guests

WHEN the Solitary Islands Aquarium opens its doors again this weekend, staff might not be the only ones excited to see visitors.

Southern Cross University community outreach manager Stephan Soule explained the coronavirus shut down had the potential to affect more than just humans.

He said since aquariums had closed, there were instances of changes in fish behaviour associated with the sudden absence of human interaction.

"Fish like big gropers are really inquisitive animals, they are like big puppy dogs," he said.

"The fish were becoming used to having people around and with no one in the aquarium they were getting quite lonely."

While Mr Soule said there weren't any in their Coffs Harbour centre showing signs of loneliness, marine biologists at aquariums in both Cairns and Japan had reported strange behaviour.

At Sumida Aquarium in Tokyo staff had even placed tablets facing the tank so people could interact with their resident garden eels remotely, after the eels appeared to become increasingly scared of humans.

One thing is for sure though, Mr Soule and the staff are ready to welcome the public back, located at the National Marine Science Centre.

Last weekend the aquarium opened for the first time since March and has instigated a series of Covid Safe practices including he introduction of floor markings and online bookings.

Mr Soule said it was critical people wishing to visit the centre reserve a spot online first, as there is a 30 guest limit during any one of the four 90-minute sessions per day.

Payment is processed at the centre.

"We have a lot of people interested and a lot of annual pass holders who are keen to get back into the aquarium," he said.

"It is a great place to really appreciate our local environment, you can get under water without getting wet and see the animals that inhabit our local area."

The Solitary Islands Aquarium is open every day during the school holidays.

Visit solitaryislandsaquarium.com for more information or to make a booking.



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