Seattle Aquarium needs critical support

By Tracey Leong

SEATTLE — The Seattle Aquarium predicts it has lost a quarter of its revenue due to the coronavirus pandemic. Looking ahead to possibly reopening, it expects to take an even bigger hit. The typical busy season may be its slowest.

It has recently shifted most of its programs online. The virtual dive shows let people experience the aquarium inside their homes.

“We’re keeping up our conservation research programs, continuing our microplastic research, we are still a conservation organization even when our doors are closed,” said Brad Rutherford, Seattle Aquarium’s chief operating officer. Rutherford said the aquarium has made significant changes during the pandemic. Payroll was cut by 50% and new safety measures were implemented.

Since the closure, the aquarium has lost about $4 million in ticket revenue. As it prepares to possibly reopen in June, it will only be at 25% capacity.

“We have to ensure social distancing, we have to ensure a safe visit to the aquarium so even if there are a lot of people wanting to come to the aquarium, we are going to have to limit numbers early on,” said Rutherford.

This means a huge economic loss for the aquarium. Typically, 60% of the aquarium’s yearly visitors visit in the summer months. Another concern is fewer tourists to the area.

“We had almost 20 percent of our attendance last year was international tourists, and I think cruise ships had over 1.2 million cruisers last year, and I know a lot of them were visiting the aquarium, they played a huge role in having our attendance run near normal,” said Rutherford.

The aquarium is looking to the public for support. It’s providing virtual explorations; even story time is online. This content is attracting viewers near and far.

“To see the responses we are getting from people all over the world really reinforces we are doing the right thing. We are absolutely telling the right stories and we are touching people’s hearts, and we are hopefully inspiring action,” said Traci Belting, Seattle Aquarium’s curator of birds and mammals.

Belting said the aquarium plans to keep these virtual engagements even after reopening. It is hoping to bring in a new stream of donations, critical funds to maintain its mission and provide care for its animals.

Ticket sales make up 85% of the aquarium’s yearly revenue. Without this source, it is relying heavily on donations. To support the aquarium you can visit their website.


About the Seattle Aquarium
Founded in 1977 and located on Pier 59 in the heart of Seattle, Washington, the nonprofit Seattle Aquarium serves as the largest platform for ocean conservation and engagement in the Pacific Northwest. With a mission of Inspiring Conservation of Our Marine Environment, it leads educational, conservation and regional research initiatives for a healthier planet. A thriving and vibrant Aquarium is a key part of Seattle. Help secure the Aquarium for years to come by donating to the Resilience Fund at

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Tim Kuniholm
(206) 386-4345