Seward’s SeaLife Center warns it may have to close and send its animals away

This spotted seal pup was found in 2014 and taken to the Alaska SeaLife Center in Seward. (Alaska SeaLife Center photo)

The Alaska SeaLife Center in Seward is in trouble. 

President Tara Riemer says the aquarium and marine research facility may have to close permanently and find new homes for its resident animals if it can’t make up for lost visitor revenues.

“We are in a really challenging financial position right now and have realized that we need to raise $2 million before we get to the winter, so that we’re able to make it through the winter,” Riemer said.

The center received $1 million in Paycheck Protection Program funds, designed to keep businesses and nonprofits operating during the pandemic. That was the maximum the center qualified for, Riemer said, and most of it has gone to payroll, as Congress intended. But the SeaLife Center has huge fixed costs every month, beyond what it pays employees.

“Most of our expenses go into maintaining our animals, maintaining our building, keeping the water running, and feeding and caring for the animals that that are here year-round,” Riemer said.

The SeaLife Center is launching a new fundraising campaign. It’s also asking the City of Seward and the Kenai Peninsula Borough for help. Riemer said they’ll make a decision Oct. 1 about whether they can keep operating.

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Liz Ruskin is the Washington, D.C., correspondent at Alaska Public Media. Reach her Read more about Lizhere.

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