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Aquariums reopening!

It’s time for sharks! And green sea turtles, eagle rays and jellies too. The Pacific Seas Aquarium and South Pacific Aquarium are reopening July 1 at Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium with new protocols to keep guests safe and healthy.

Oh, and guests will get to meet Bruno the green sea turtle, too.

sea turtle swims next to fish
Bruno swims next to a fish in the Baja Bay exhibit of the Pacific Seas Aquarium

“Our aquarium animals, from sea turtles to jellies, are among the experiences our guests love the most,” said Alan Varsik, director of Metro Parks’ Zoological & Environmental Education Division. “So we’re delighted to open both the Pacific Seas Aquarium and the South Pacific Aquarium to keep connecting people with our ocean, while keeping everyone safe.”

The Pacific Seas Aquarium showcases marine animals from around the Pacific Ocean. In the massive Baja Bay habitat, 23-year-old green sea turtle Bruno recently joined green sea turtle siblings Sunny and Azul. Hammerhead sharks, eagle rays and warm-water fish glide serenely, recreating the feel of Baja California. In the Northwest Waters habitat, Puget Sound species like ratfish and rockfish swim around enormous pink plumose anemones. Nearby are Puget Sound king crabs and favorite fish like Buddy the California sheephead.

The South Pacific Aquarium is home to massive warm water sharks: nurse sharks, black-tip reef shark, sandbar and sand tiger sharks cruise around the deep blue Outer Reef habitat alongside a silvery school of crevalle jack. A myriad of tropical fish dart around the Lagoon and mesmerizing Blue Hole. There’s even a shy moray eel called Gordon.

Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium reopened to the public June 18, following Washington Governor Jay Inslee’s Phase 2 guidelines for Safe Start operations. Timed online tickets, limited capacity, a one-way path, face coverings, social distancing guidelines and extra sanitary measures all help reduce congestion and contact.

While both aquariums were approved by the governor for reopening along with the rest of the Zoo during Phase 2, staff have taken extra time to prepare all the safety measures, Varsik explained.

kids in masks at blue holeBoth aquariums will follow the Zoo-wide measures, plus a few extra:

  • Guests will follow one-way paths through each aquarium.
  • Stingray Cove, the Tidal Touch Zone, the Home Sweet Ocean Home play area and all interactive digital stations are closed. In the South Pacific Aquarium, the tropical lagoon is viewable only from the upper deck.
  • Guests are encouraged to follow marks on the floor for social distancing.
  • Stanchions and signs will discourage touching of exhibit windows and other surfaces. Extra hand sanitizing stations will be in place. Restrooms with no-touch entry are open in the Pacific Seas Aquarium.
  • Doors in the South Pacific Aquarium (an older building) will be propped open to increase airflow. Doors in the newer Pacific Seas Aquarium will continue to operate with motion sensors.
  • Strollers and wheelchairs are allowed in both aquariums (no outside stroller parking). One family at a time is allowed in the South Pacific Aquarium elevator leading down to the Outer Reef. The Pacific Seas Aquarium is fully ADA-accessible.
  • Aquarium staff dives, talks and feeds will happen at unscheduled times to prevent congestion. There are no Eye-to-Eye Shark Dives at this time.

The inside Dayroom in the Asian Forest Sanctuary habitat will also open as a one-way through experience. Guests may also choose to bypass all indoor areas.

Because we care about the safety of our guests, staff and animals, Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium requires all guests to wear face coverings while visiting.

Exception for Children Under 5

  • Children under 5 are not required to wear face coverings.
  • Children ages 2, 3, and 4 are encouraged, but not required, to wear face coverings.
  • Children under 2 should not wear face coverings.

If guests don’t have a face covering when they arrive, a face mask will be provided to them.  All staff members and volunteers are also required to wear face masks while working.

Tuesdays 3-4 pm are reserved for people with a medical condition, mental health condition or disability that prevents them from wearing a face covering.