Mini aquarium filling tanks with sea life

Josh Pennell
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It’s almost time for a little piece of the ocean to come ashore in Petty Harbour.

Diver Desta Frey holds up a collection bag with a toad crab in it.

The Petty Harbour Mini Aquarium has a release permit, as well as a collection permit, so at the end of last year’s season, it released the species it had collected for the summer.

Which means it has to get an entirely new crew for this year.

“We’re going out most weekends now to collect and find as many cool critters as we can,” says Melanie Knight, who is with the aquarium.

The aquarium hasn’t opened yet and is still being set up. In the meantime, the species that are collected are being held at the Ocean Sciences Centre.

There will be ocean friendlies similar to last year calling the aquarium’s tanks home, as well as some new additions, including a wolffish.

“We got a special permit from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) to collect a wolffish, which is an extremely gnarly looking wolf-like fish. It’s long and eel-like and it can be quite aggressive,” says Knight.

The Atlantic wolffish is listed under the Species at Risk Act, so a special permit is required to collect one.

According to the DFO website, the fish is often picked up as bycatch and that’s how the mini aquarium is hoping to come by one — from a fisherman who lands one, perhaps in a lobster trap.

The wolffish will only be around for a little while, though.

Knight says they’re a cold-water fish and  a species of concern, which means the aquarium will release the fish earlier than the other ocean creatures it picks up.

Knight says the aquarium water heats up as summer progresses, so it will get the wolffish back in the ocean before it finds it too warm in its temporary home.

The wolffish will be a new sight, but people will be able to find at least one of their old sea compadres at the aquarium. Gorm, the blue lobster, will be back.

While the rest of the display creatures were released, Gorm was too special to just let go, so the lobster spent the winter at the Ocean Sciences Centre.

The centre “fostered a lobster,” Knight says.

Gorm and his buddies will be ready for the public June 8 — World Oceans Day — when the aquarium opens for the season.

Organizations: Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Ocean Sciences Centre, Petty Harbour Mini Aquarium

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