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Reprieve For NI Seal Sanctuary Amid Exploris Closure Threat

17th November 2013
Reprieve For NI Seal Sanctuary Amid Exploris Closure Threat

#MarineWildlife - Northern Ireland's Environment Minister has guaranteed the future of Northern Ireland's only seal sanctuary as the fate of its home at the Exploris aquarium hangs in the balance.

As previously reported on, the aquarium in Portaferry, Co Antrim - run since its opening in 1987 by Ards Borough Council - will shut on Monday week (25 November) if it does not secure necessary funding from Stormont.

And its closure could see more than 3,000 marine animals presently housed in the facility destroyed.

Hopes that the centre could be privatised were dashed earlier this year when a deal with investor Livingstone Leisure fell through.

Ards Borough Council say they can no longer afford the operating costs of some £500,000 (€600,000) a year for what they argue is a regional facility, and one of NI's top 10 tourist attractions, that puts it in line for national funding.

As yet no ministers in the NI Executive have made any commitment to saving the aquarium.

However, according to the Belfast Telegraph, Environment Minister Mark H Durkan has said that whatever the fate of Exploris, the seal sanctuary will continue to operate - whether in Portaferry or another location in Northern Ireland.

And he has suggested that a proposal for a one-off grant support to help boost the aquarium's business and reduce the financial strain on the council is set to be discussed this week.

Minister Durkan's comments come just days after the Exploris sanctuary came to the rescue of five baby seals stranded across the NI coast.

As the Belfast Telegraph reports, they included grey seal pups in Portaferry and Portrush since named Titan and Pluto, and later a common seal in Millisle and two more grey seals from Sandy Bay in Larne and Orlock, Co Down.

Published in Marine Wildlife
MacDara Conroy

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MacDara Conroy

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MacDara Conroy is a contributor covering all things on the water, from boating and wildlife to science and business

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Marine Wildlife Around Ireland One of the greatest memories of any day spent boating around the Irish coast is an encounter with marine wildlife.  It's a thrill for young and old to witness seabirds, seals, dolphins and whales right there in their own habitat. As boaters fortunate enough to have experienced it will testify even spotting a distant dorsal fin can be the highlight of any day afloat.  Was that a porpoise? Was it a whale? No matter how brief the glimpse it's a privilege to share the seas with Irish marine wildlife.

Thanks to the location of our beautiful little island, perched in the North Atlantic Ocean there appears to be no shortage of marine life to observe.

From whales to dolphins, seals, sharks and other ocean animals this page documents the most interesting accounts of marine wildlife around our shores. We're keen to receive your observations, your photos, links and youtube clips.

Boaters have a unique perspective and all those who go afloat, from inshore kayaking to offshore yacht racing that what they encounter can be of real value to specialist organisations such as the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) who compile a list of sightings and strandings. The IWDG knowledge base has increased over the past 21 years thanks in part at least to the observations of sailors, anglers, kayakers and boaters.

Thanks to the IWDG work we now know we share the seas with dozens of species who also call Ireland home. Here's the current list: Atlantic white-sided dolphin, beluga whale, blue whale, bottlenose dolphin, common dolphin, Cuvier's beaked whale, false killer whale, fin whale, Gervais' beaked whale, harbour porpoise, humpback whale, killer whale, minke whale, northern bottlenose whale, northern right whale, pilot whale, pygmy sperm whale, Risso's dolphin, sei whale, Sowerby's beaked whale, sperm whale, striped dolphin, True's beaked whale and white-beaked dolphin.

But as impressive as the species list is the IWDG believe there are still gaps in our knowledge. Next time you are out on the ocean waves keep a sharp look out!

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