MUCH of the publicity about Ards Borough Council's proposal to close the Exploris Aquarium has rightly been directed at the loss of jobs and tourism to the Portaferry area.
However, Strangford Lough is the largest sea lough in the British Isles and the strong tides through the Narrows create a unique habitat. Strangford Lough is a Marine Conservation Area, with more than 2,000 marine creatures and plants. The displays in Exploris demonstrate and explain this unique habitat and we are all able to see living examples of the many species of fish, sea anemones, sea urchins, octopuses and all the other fascinating animals that live under the water.
I visited Exploris recently and had to park in the overflow car park. It was wonderful to see the excitement on the faces of young and old as they gazed at the tanks and were allowed to handle the sea creatures. The Seal Sanctuary rescues orphaned and injured seals from a large area.
Has Ards council considered how much it would cost to close Exploris? Queen's University's marine biology station works closely with Exploris and would still need to have Strangford sea-water pumped by Exploris. All the sea creatures in the tanks would have to be shipped to aquaria in other countries willing to take them.
Ards is fortunate to have Strangford Lough in its area and it is essential that it maintains this centre that interprets its worldwide importance for us all.