Aquarium Initiative

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We are delighted to welcome you back for the 2022 season on June 25th!! The Aquarium will be open Wednesday to Sundays 10am – 5pm. We anticipate a busy season, so please call ahead or book your tickets in advance by clicking on the Book Aquarium Tour button above!


Please see our photo diary of the build below!  




Since our successful Come Home Year and dedication of the Ella Freeman Heritage House in 2010, the Champney’s West Heritage Group has been planning to add a wonderful new attraction on the Bonavista Peninsula: The Aquarium at Champney’s West. We feel that this type of leading action matches the overall objectives of our group and complements other social and economic initiatives that are taking place in the region.


The idea of establishing a public Aquarium at Champney’s West was presented to the  Heritage Group Board of Directors in 2011 by Bill Driedzic, summer resident and Professor in the Department of Ocean Sciences, Memorial University. Bill actually just expanded upon the idea that Maggie and Wanda Pippy, full time residents, had to set up a local touch tank.


The objectives of the Aquarium at Champney’s West are i) to strengthen the community infrastructure, and in doing so create employment, and ii) provide a learning experience for tourists of all ages, local adults, and especially our K-12 children.


We were delighted to announce early in 2014, with further good news in 2015, that our Federal and Provincial Governments were providing funding towards this exciting initiative.

  • The Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, Innovative Communities Fund  made available $205,601 to support the development of our Community Aquarium.
  • In addition to this federal funding we secured a further $181,224 from the provincial Department of Business, Tourism, Culture and Rural Development.

We would not have been able to secure this governmental funding without the incredible support from our local community, permanent and seasonal.  Through a range of fundraising initiatives, including Tea and Sea, hosted at Fisher’s Loft, the fabulous Champney’s West Old fashioned Concerts and Kitchen Parties we raised over $67,000.  This included the very generous donation of the land by Angela and Jim Knee of Champney’s West.  In recognition of this donation the classroom will be named after Angela’s grandfather.

This support allowed us to prove to our government partners that we were committed to making the aquarium a reality.

We are delighted to report that the fundraising has continued with a donation from the Patten Family Foundation of $20,000. A further $18,000 in cash and in kind was raised during the September 10 2016 reception held at the aquarium. In addition to all of this the Barnes family has kindly donated the land adjacent to the aquaria for our use.

Ongoing support was also received in 2016 from the Provincial Government through the provision of funding to cover operational expenses in 2016.



Work has been progressing in accordance with the plans originally crafted by local artist Frank Lapointe based on input from a design team at the Ocean Sciences Centre, Memorial University.

Just click on the link below to see Frank’s vision.

Aquarium Outside and Windows plans

Aquarium Floor Plans 2

Aquarium Roof and Wall Plans

Aquarium Basement plans


Any good project needs a clear timeline.  Here’s the outline of ours for 2015 into 2017

Date Task Status
Jan – March Secure Government funding Complete
Apr – June Excavation Complete
July – Nov Architect’s plans finalised and approved and foundation poured. Complete
Dec – May Shell built Complete
June – Nov Planning and installation of electrical, plumbing and septic system Complete
Dec – Feb Completion of interior finishes Complete
March – July Sea water flowing Complete
September Soft Opening Complete
Sept – Nov Partially open to the public Complete
Summer 2017 Grand opening  In planning stages

To help us keep track of progress and remember and record this exciting development we are developing a photo diary of the build.

May 2014 – The site before the excavation

Water side                                                                                            Land Side

Water side (1)Land side

June 2014 – The Excavation

The digThe hole

November 2014 – The architect’s plans have been approved so now we are preparing to pour the concrete


November 2014 – Despite the weather we are delighted to say that the pour went ahead

Pour 3Pour 1

 December 2014 – The building is now starting to take shape




Mid December 2014 – The walls are going up 



 February 2015 – Things are really moving along 

(Thanks to Maggie Pippy for helping out with the photos)


March 2015 – Soon there will be a roof


April 2015 – Things are really taking shape, a roof and windows


May 2015 – The siding is on, even the icebergs want to see what is happening


Dec 2015 – We are pleased to report that the septic system has been approved and installed.  We will now be able to head indoors to complete the interior

100_0440 (640x425)100_0461 (640x425)100_0443 (640x425)100_0451 (640x425)

Jan 2016 – Work is moving along nicely – the ceiling is being installed

ceiling photo jan 2016ceiling photo 2 jan 2016CP 3

April 2016 – the inside is coming along nicely


May 2016 – the inside is nearly finished


July 2016 – The sign is up and Sea water is flowing

Aquarium signsea water

Our team of staff and supporters from Memorial University have been working hard to get the sea water flowing into the Aquarium and into the viewing tanks.  We are pleased to report that on Friday 22nd July we were successful!

September 2016 – Sneak Peek Preview

doner-wall-2-2 shawna-reception-2 patten-people-b-2 img_4171-2

Photo credits Gary Patten

In recognition of some of our donors

The teaching classroom in the aquarium was dedicated to Edison B. Freeman, the grandfather of Angela (Knee) Freeman.  Angela and Jim Knee made possible, the purchase of the land for the aquarium.

Deb Wickwire, artist, potter, sculptor and summer resident of English Harbour donated several pottery fish to dress up the aquarium walls.

Local residents and Leatherback Turtle :   Wayne Ledwell and Julie Huntington of the Whale Release and Strandings organization have donated the shell and bones to the aquarium. Wayne collected the dead turtle from Champney’s West in 2004

The Ice – beautiful to look at but has caused delays to the 2017 opening


The aquarium will be situated on a site overlooking the ocean with a private cove.  A 60 ft x 40 ft building has been constructed close to the shoreline to facilitate pumping of sea water and access to the intertidal zone.  A public area will include three large tanks, a number of smaller aquaria, and touch tanks.  On display will be variety of marine life such as fin fish (Atlantic salmon, Atlantic cod, cunners, sculpin, lumpfish, and flounder); shellfish (mussels, whelks, and clams); crustaceans (lobsters and crabs); and other invertebrates (sea cucumbers, sea anemones, sea urchins, star fish, jelly fish, and sea squirts). In addition there will be a small teaching laboratory. It will be open to the public from June until October annually.



The Public Education Programme at the Ocean Sciences Centre, Memorial University is a major partner in both the building of the facility and its operation.  Memorial University will provide on-going professional expertise.  

Update on Memorial’s Support

Memorial University has played an important role in the development of the aquarium. In 2016, through the Public Engagement Accelerator Fund, Memorial University provided an award of $10,000 that provided partial salary support for on site individuals to complete the project and for travel of personnel to Champney’s West to provide teaching and advice.

Jim Devereaux (Laboratory Services Supervisor), John Evely (Water Quality Specialist), Damien Whitten from the Ocean Sciences Centre were on site four times to assist with the sea water plumbing systems and provide guidance to Martin Hiscock who is responsible for the operation of the physical plant of the aquarium. Jim and his team continue to provide assistance as the project moves to full completion with running sea water being delivered to approximately 20 different sites within the building.

Danny Boyce (Facilities and Business Manager, Joe Brown Aquatic Research Building) was in Champney’s West to work with local fisherman Charlie Freeman in the collection of lumpfish.  Joining Danny was the Field Services team (Andrew Perry and Zach Ryan ) who were able to identify the best site for sea water intake. While on site the divers were also able to deploy a buoy with a temperature monitoring device that gave water temperatures for six months and allowed a focusing of the water flow requirements  to meet  the needs  of the facility in an energy efficient manner.

Danielle Nichols (Director of Public Education Program), Kiersten Cormier and their team of PEPERS have had the touch tank on display at the Champney’s West Day celebration for four years and in doing so help maintain public support for and interest in the project. The Public Education team delivered and provided many of the specimens that were on display in the short 2017 season.

Bob Hooper (retired Professor, Department of Biology) and Fiona Cuthbert (Instructor, Department of Biology), calling upon years of experience at the Bonne Bay Marine Station, advised on design of touch tanks and viewing aquaria in the open area. Their plan allows visitors to look outside towards the sea scape and the iconic Indian Head geological formation while enjoying the animals and plants on display. They deserve full credit for display area and continue to be an important resource in all operations of the facility.  Please click on the link below to see the schematic which shows the planned placement of viewing and touch tanks.

Proposed aquarium layout 2016

Other Memorial personnel who are engaged in the development of the aquarium are Catherine Street, from the Faculty of Medicine, who serves on the Board of Directors of the Champney’s  West Heritage Group and also maintains the webpage, and Bill Driedzic (Professor and former Canada Research Chair in Marine Bioscience).  Bill also serves on the Champney’s West  Heritage Group Board and co-ordinates activities of Memorial personnel.

The Aquarium will become a node in the Oceans Learning Partnership. The mission of the OLP is to bring the world of coastal and ocean science and technology to students and teachers through a dynamic, immersive program of hands-on learning at sea; and to expose young people  to the diversity of career opportunities in ocean-related sectors in the province. Activities at the aquarium will build upon the success of the OLP ‘floating classroom’ program complemented with land based laboratory work.

Educational programming will be co-ordinated with the Oceans Learning Partnership and with Memorial University.


Artist Rendition of Aquarium Building –  For Illustration Purposes



Initial start up cost to establish the infrastructure was $540,000; annual operating costs are estimated to be $110,000 with financial self-sufficiency being achieved through revenue generation from admissions, sale of marine biology related items, and on-going training programs.




We would be happy to forward to any interested parties the full operational project and business plan.  Simply e-mail Shelly Blackmore,  Executive Director, Champney’s West Heritage Group at cwcdo(at)

Your support would be very much appreciated to help us bring this exciting concept to reality.

We are a non profit organization with charitable status.  You will receive a receipt for income tax purposes.


You Can Help Us by Donating to our Aquarium Project Fund Raising Drive

No Amount is Too Big or Too Small – Your Help Counts and is Appreciated!

Your Donation Will Help Make a Difference In The Future Of A Historic Community 

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