Please Help Save The Waikiki Aquarium - Honolulu Civil Beat


About the Author

Shayne Stambler

Shayne Stambler, born and raised in Hawaii, wrote for the Honolulu Weekly.

It’s bright, hot, and quite sunny — it’s Hawaii, after all. You stop at the entrance to buy a ticket, walk inside and suddenly it’s dark, cool, mysterious, and delightfully quiet. The ambient sound is water bubbling or a gentle rhythmic tidal surge punctuated on occasion by a delighted child’s voice as they discover a creature on display.

You’re in the sanctuary of the sea, the Waikiki Aquarium.

So much of our time is spent on the computer, watching television, or on cellphones. There was a good reason Steve Jobs of Apple and Bill Gates of Microsoft forbade their children to have cellphones and allowed only limited computer time — they realized how addictive these devices were.

Nature experienced in the abstract is just that, an abstraction. If we want our children to be good stewards of nature, then they have to experience it.

One can be moved by looking at a picture of a great painting or by seeing a play on television, but it’s still a two dimensional experience. Walk into an art museum and look at that same painting or go to the theater and see that same play and there is an added dimension, literally and figuratively, and the effect can be profound.

A zebra shark at the Waikiki Aquarium. Shayne Stambler

Dr. Andrew Rossiter, director of the Waikiki Aquarium, was asked how often they get in new fish, and he said very rarely, because the ones on display live much longer than they would in the wild. Good nutrition, medical care, a stress free environment and the lack of predation make for longevity.

Some of the smaller reef fish that were thought to only live three to four years have now been on display for 10-plus years. A perfect example of this is the resident monk seal that has cataracts and is for all intents and purposes blind. Survival in the wild would be impossible but Ho’ailona is able to thrive at the aquarium.

The aquarium is also involved in conservation, rescue and release (if possible), research, coral programs, and invasive algae clean ups. Teachers, home schoolers, and just the innately curious will find the aquarium’s website offers virtual experiences, an Oceanography 101 classroom and a vast amount of information. That’s where I learned about the longevity of some of the fish on display.

The blind Hawaiian monk seal at the aquarium. Shayne Stambler

The pandemic has caused the aquarium to shut its doors to the public for this second round of closures, keeping only a skeleton crew to take care of the creatures and the maintenance of the grounds.

As the aquarium explained in a recent press release, pre-COVID-19 it hosted 260,000 patrons annually, and 30,000 Hawaii schoolchildren attended aquarium classes and programs. But after reopening in July, COVID-related restrictions on visitors “meant that revenues cannot currently meet operating costs. This is exacerbated by the absence of tourists, who do not enjoy the discounted entry fee available to Hawaii residents.”

It is very possible that this 116-year-old institution may be forced to close forever.

I urge you to help out as much as you can, because to lose the Waikiki Aquarium would be unthinkable.

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About the Author

Shayne Stambler

Shayne Stambler, born and raised in Hawaii, wrote for the Honolulu Weekly.


Latest Comments (0)

As an educational facility that will teach the next generation to care for the marine environment and it's inhabitants. The organization should get into capturing more capitalistic means to fund their exhibits.  For example starter kits that any child can take home to raise, feed care for a guppy, anenome, opae,....seaweed.  By marketing this type of do it your self learning tools it could garner more support  from the owners of these kits.

Seawolfontheprowl · 1 year ago

Tough crowd here... yeah it's not the Monterey Bay Aquarium.  But it's ours and my kids LOVE it.  

nobotrobot · 1 year ago

The Aquarium is "one of the good things about Hawaii" .

be_data_driven · 1 year ago

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