£10m Titanic Quarter aquarium could attract an extra 300,000 visitors to Northern Ireland
A £10m aquarium planned for Belfast's Titanic Quarter could increase the number of visitors to NI by 300,000 annually, the London-based company behind it has said.
The project, creating around 40 new jobs and around 60 extra posts during the construction phase, will open in 2021, pending planning approval.
The aquarium, to be owned by UK-based company ReefLIVE, would be located behind Titanic Hotel and is set to complement the growing interest in marine life conservation after television documentaries such as Blue Planet 2.
A spokesperson for the company said: "ReefLIVE's Belfast Aquarium has been designed as an aquarium for the 21st century and will place the visitor at the heart of the marine environment to give them a unique insight into the amazing stories of life beneath the waves."
Once open the aquarium "will be the largest ocean visitor attraction on the island of Ireland".
"Belfast has become one of the UK's leading hubs for such family-friendly experiences and we see the city as a thriving tourism destination. We are confident in our decision to choose Belfast over other top UK cities for our first investment of this kind," said the spokesman.
The proposed attraction will "tell the story of how our seas are All One Ocean". Aquatic species from some of the world's most spectacular habitats would be showcased, with sea creatures from Ireland to Indonesia and from the Arctic to the Azores.
The company said it will not display mammals or large pelagic shark species due to its "deeply held belief that the needs of these species cannot be met adequately in a captive environment". The spokesman added: "ReefLIVE prides itself in only selecting species that are suitable for aquarium displays and we'll seek to ensure the source of our animals is from sustainable sources."
ReefLIVE said it works alongside governing bodies and in line with regulations to provide a fully compliant attraction.
The aquarium building will be designed by Ethos Architects and, subject to planning approval, will open in the spring of 2021.
Brian Kelly, a director at the project's planning consultants Turley, said: "Turley is very excited to be part of this innovative project and we look forward to seeing the ReefLIVE Aquarium situated in the great company of neighbouring attractions as a best-in-class education landmark. This substantial investment will support the ongoing development of the area as a distinguished tourism destination."
A pre-application community consultation drop-in event for the proposal will be held on August 20 at the Titanic Hotel from 3-8pm and it is expected that a planning application will be submitted in early October.