Resource Mapping

Friday, March 09, 2007



Public aquaria are living museums offering a glimpse into an underwater world that we rarely get the opportunity to witness first hand. Public aquaria focus on education to encourage conservation, and the statement that is synonymous among public aquaria is “how can we conserve what we cannot see?” Without conservation and education, our impact on the limited natural resources of the oceans will continue through ignorance until its final collapse. By linking together the entertainment value of a “living museum” with the message of responsibility, we can foster and encourage awareness in all people visiting public aquaria from all over the world and identify specific sensitive local areas of concern which require conservation. Animals exhibited within public aquaria effectively become ambassadors of their watery domain.

Public aquaria often offer interactive programmes which benefit scholars who are keen to explore the biological sciences and often run learnerships and outreach applications which literally take the creatures of the sea to underprivileged communities and schools where it is hoped an early curiosity can be sparked. The Two Oceans Aquarium’s education department is the pioneer behind this approach in South Africa, which has since been implemented by the NPC education centre of the South African Association for Marine Biological Research at uShaka Marine World in Durban with great success.

Recent applications of resource awareness by many public aquaria has seen the implementation of special colour-coded flip cards which indicate the vulnerability of common restaurant-supplied seafoods. By creating awareness of the status of specific species which make up a large portion of our protein consumption, and integrating and reinforcing these ideas through aquarium presentations, it is hoped that the pressures of demand on heavily exploited organisms will shift to more sustainable ones in future through educating the public.

Ten internationally recognised public aquaria were selected for the GIS assignment to introduce and encourage possible visits to these landmark holiday destinations. Each public aquarium introduced, excluding the old Sea World aquarium which was replaced in 2004 by uShaka Marine World, includes the URL for their respective home pages, which provides insight into their individuality and conservation responsibilities and affiliations. An aerial photographic view from one angle of each public aquarium using Google Earth introduces their geographic locations. The following public aquaria were selected based on the criterion that they are all different from each other, yet bound together in the common cause of conservation:


  • Two Oceans Aquarium, Cape Town, South Africa
  • uShaka Sea World, uShaka Matine World, Durban, South Africa
  • Sea World (historical location after its demolition in 2005) Durban, South Africa


  • Monterey Bay Aquarium, Monterey Bay, California, USA
  • John G. Shedd Aquarium, Chicago, USA


  • Melbourne Aquarium, Melbourne, Australia
  • Sydney Aquarium, Sydney, Australia


  • Berlin Aquarium, Berlin, Germany
  • Lisbon Aquarium, Lisbon, Portugal

Far East:

  • Underwater World Singapore, Sentosa Island, Singapore




Two Oceans Aquarium opened in 1995 and was seen at that point to be the most modern aquarium in South Africa. The Two Oceans Aquarium is one of only two international public aquaria to exhibit a live kelp ecosystem. Only the kelp forest at Monterey Bay, California rivals the majesty of that of the Two Oceans Aquarium. The name is ultimately the theme of the Two Oceans Aquarium. The Southern African coastline boasts the Atlantic Ocean on its West coast and the Indian Ocean on its East coast. The diversity and spectacular of this unique feature of the coastline is reflected in the exhibition of a wide variety of weird and wonderful creatures, and is of course 100% proudly South African! Two Oceans Aquarium is involved in the conservation of sharks in South Africa.

Two Oceans Aquarium “bird’s eye view” and its North-South location within the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront. Scale bar = 1km. Co-ordinates: 33°54’32.14”S, 18°25’07.31”E (Decimal Degrees: -33.90536°S, 18.41791°E).




Sea World was the oldest public aquarium in South Africa until its demolition in 2005. Sea World was a modest aquarium built for the purpose of supplying funding for scientific research at the Oceanographic Research Institute (O.R.I). Sea World was famous for its dolphinarium which housed Gambit the Bottlenose dolphin, the largest dolphin in captivity in the World. Sea World was the beginning of the success of public aquaria in South Africa and was relocated with all its animals to its new premises just 2km down the road to uShaka Marine World in 2004. The site where Sea World stood is still visible in the aerial photographs as well as the jetty which housed the intake water lines that fed the aquarium with seawater from the adjacent surf.

Old Sea World aquarium site, beachfront, Marine Parade, Durban. This West facing view shows its location next to the old water park. Scale bar = 0.74km. Co-ordinates: 29°51’21.68”S, 31°02’19.28”E (Decimal Degrees: -29.85361°S, 31.06546°E).




uShaka Sea World opened in April 2004 after the relocation and quarantine of all the existing animals from the old Sea World Aquarium. uShaka is the fourth largest aquarium in the world, the largest in Africa and the Southern hemisphere and is home to over 8000 specimens of fishes and invertebrates. uShaka Marine World is a combination of water theme park, aquarium, dolphinarium and shopping village. ushaka Sea World is currently the only aquarium in Africa that has encouraged natural breeding of its adult Loggerhead turtles in captivity and leads the field in elasmobranch immobilisation techniques.

uShaka Marine World South-South East view (Water park entrance from Bell Street). Scale bar = 0.65km. Co-ordinates: 29°52’09.40”S, 31°02’42.34”E (Decimal Degrees: -29.86823°S, 31.10389°E).




Monterey Bay was the first public aquarium ever to house a Great White shark in captivity in 2006. Monterey boasts an impressive conservation history with the local population of Sea otters and is also well known for its deep-sea research. Monterey Bay Aquarium was the first aquarium to train Sunfish (Mola mola) and is home to the largest live Kelp forest ecosystem in the world. Monterey Bay Aquarium runs the Sea Watch programme which is aimed at educating the public about the correct seafood choices. Monterey is a partner of Stanford University and have also undertaken research into the lives of tuna through the development of tracking and tagging techniques.

Monterey Bay Aquarium Western view. Scale bar = 0.3km. Co-ordinates: 36°37’06.57”N, 121°54’06.09”W (Decimal Degrees: 36.61779°N, -121.90101°W).




John G. Shedd aquarium in Chicago attempts a view of all the world’s major oceans to give the visitor the experience of a one-stop world tour in one aquarium. If you want to see Beluga whales, and indeed a new born calf this year (expected in a few months), then this is the place to visit! Shedd aquarium is dedicated to the Beluga whale captive breeding programme. In 1988 John G. Shedd Aquarium became a partner in Project Seahorse, an international network that includes over 75 institutions actively participating in sea horse conservation around the world.

John G. Shedd Aquarium South-South East view close-up pan showing three-dimensional building structure. Scale bar = 0.38km. Co-ordinates: 41°52’02.65”N, 87°36’50.47”W (Decimal Degrees: 41.86710°N, -87.60841°W).




The aquarium in Melbourne is larger than the aquarium in Sydney, but Sydney aquarium often collects animals for exhibition directly from the Sydney harbour. The Melbourne Aquarium is well known for its hands-on approach to education and offers special teacher training courses as well as courses for students from primary school level to early University level. “Creepy Creature,” the newly themed exhibit area, displays Bird-eating spiders, Coconut crabs, Giant spider crabs, leeches and scorpions! For a more calming experience, the Melbourne Aquarium also offers “Yoga Aqua,” a Yoga course presented in front of the aquarium’s larger exhibits.

Melbourne Aquarium North “pan” view from the river. Scale bar = 0.15km. Co-ordinates: 37°49’15.91”S, 144°57’28.62”E (Decimal Degrees: -37.81931°S, 144.95477°E).




Sydney aquarium is situated in Sydney harbour and is well known for its display of corals and locally collected fishes from the harbour, including the blue-ringed octopus. Sydney is also heavily involved in the conservation of the native Pygmy perch and is involved in re-stocking programmes which sees their re-introduction back into their natural habitat of coastal streams in Australia and Tasmania. Sydney has also recently begun a Penguin breeding programme and released its first chicks into the harbour in December 2006. Sydney aquarium is a must see if your travel plans allow for a visit to Sydney!

Sydney Aquarium North “pan” view close-up. Note the roads passed the aquarium building for easy accessibility. Co-ordinates: 33°52’09.25”S, 151°12’07.46”E (Decimal Degrees: -33.86820°S, 151.20124°E).




The Berlin aquarium is well known for its coral displays and jellyfish husbandry and is the largest of three public aquaria in Berlin and includes a zoological garden. Home to 9000 animals representing 800 species, the Berlin aquarium offers an interesting view on biodiversity. The aquarium extension is relatively new and constantly changing. The zoological garden is already nearly 90 years old!

Berlin Aquarium North “pan” view showing the surrounding areas of the zoological gardens. Scale bar = 0.25km. Co-ordinates: 52°30’22.29”N, 13°20’28.90”E (Decimal Degrees: 52.50371°N, 13.33814°E).




The aquarium at Lisbon houses a South African fish display and Ragged tooth sharks which were collected by the team at the Two Oceans Aquarium. Lisbon’s aquarium opened in 2006.

Lisbon Aquarium South Western “pan” view close-up. Scale bar = 0.20km. Co-ordinates: 38°45’48.66”N, 9°05’37.78”W (Decimal Degrees: 38.75811°N, -9.08962°W).




Underwater World Singapore is situated on Sentosa Island in Singapore and is actively involved in several captive breeding programmes of various animals and is also involved in several local environmental projects around Singapore. UWS is involved in the conservation of the Pink dolphin, Hawk’s bill turtles, Dugongs and corals. Gracie, the Dugong mascot was rescued as a calf by the staff of UWS in 1998 off Pulau Ubin Island after her mother drowned in fishing nets, and now serves as an ambassador for conservation. UWS opened in 1991 and is one of the top 10 destinations for visiting tourists to Singapore.

Underwater World, Singapore. East-South East “pan” view to show its position on Sentosa Island. Scale bar =0.39km. Co-ordinates: 1°15’26.97”N, 103°48’36.24”E (Decimal Degrees: 1.25449°N, 103.80604°E).

I hope you have enjoyed the introduction to International public aquaria. For those UWC students who are also keen to visit the Two Oceans Aquarium in the V & A Waterfront in Cape Town, please leave a request in the comments section and I will see what I can do regarding some limited complimentary tickets. I can probably get access for a maximum of eight students, so I will provide for the first eight UWC student comments on this post. First come first served!


David Vaughan
Senior aquarist, Quarantine
Two Oceans Aquarium
Cape Town, South Africa
+27 21 418 38 23


  • "how can we conserve what we cannot see?” - did you intend the PUN?

    It is best in most cases to use the bullets (unordered list) rather than numbers when making lists - unless the numbers are a really important information point.

    Probably need only to use S and E or + and - in coordinates - it is not wrong to use both but Google Earth will not like it! So it can be -33.90536 degrees (5 decimals is the absolute minimum but I actually report six decimals), or 33.90536 degrees S. When using the decimals some people ignore the degrees.

    I really like your relaxed writing style for this Blog posting - makes for interesting reading. The balance of how much information to provide is absolutely spot on. Just check some of your decimal co-ordinates so in Google Earth the image returns the centre of the view e.g. with uShaka it is a bit at sea.

    PS comments editor will not accept the Sup Tag so I had to write out in degrees.

    By Blogger Rich Knight, at March 10, 2007 10:37 AM  

  • HI Richard

    Thanks for the comments. Pun intended (see - sea) but there is also the deeper message as well.

    I wonder how long it will take to get some responses to my interesting exercise in itself.

    I will check my co-ordinates and edit again some time this weekend between working at the aquarium as well.



    By Blogger davidvaughan, at March 10, 2007 12:11 PM  

  • I also noted in your pics you used the 3-d building function for Chicago John G. Shedd aquarium. A lot of people I speak to seem to enjoy uShaka more than Two Oceans -I think both are great but for me Two Oceans delivers more on the education front - it is a hugely informative attraction for Cape Town. The majesty of the Kelp forest at Two Oceans is something not to miss - I think I could stand there for hours just getting lost in watching an underwater world go by.

    By Blogger Rich Knight, at March 12, 2007 5:34 PM  

  • Hi Richard

    The attractions of both aquaria are very different to each other. I agree with you that T.O.A is more educational (and traditional). uShaka Sea World is centred around the American-style theme park which emphasises the entertainment value of the whole experience. I personally feel that this detracts from the educational and even environmental message somewhat.

    The Kelp forest is my favourite exhibit. It holds just over 800 000L of seawater, is 5m deep, and contains (possibly) the SA record for largest Red roman.

    I have a short video on the making of uShaka (and indeed many photographs) and the moving of all the animals from the old aquarium to uShaka which I can lend to you if you would like to see how this sort of thing is done. Could I possibly post some interesting shots on the blog?



    By Blogger davidvaughan, at March 13, 2007 8:07 AM  

  • Hello everyone

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    By Blogger davidvaughan, at March 28, 2007 4:38 PM  

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