SeaQuarium Rhyl hopes First Minister will have a change as heart as it opens Seal Cove in attempt to bring in some much needed income

A RHYL tourist attraction fears it may have look to rehome or even euthanise its animals if they cannot open soon.

SeaQuarium Rhyl – which was able to open its outdoor Seal Cove on July 6 – is carrying on its desperate fight for survival.

Since March 21, the aquarium has had zero revenue, no visitors but continuing costs with 200 animals to feed and five full-time animal keepers that can’t be Furloughed.

The attraction has had a government grant of £25,000 and has secured a £50,000 bounce back loan which will run out in August and will need to be paid back.

And although pleased for businesses such as the Welsh Mountain Zoo – which is preparing to reopening on July 13, Colette Macdonald, director at the SeaQuarium Rhyl, said she is feeling frustrated.

“It is not clear to me why we are not permitted to open on July 6 and why we need to wait for the next review on July 29 in Wales,” she said.

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Rhyl Sea lion spinning!

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“If I can’t get any revenue coming in soon we will have to make redundancies and look to rehome the animals, or the worst scenario is euthanise them which we shouldn’t be put in this position to do – the SeaQuarium won’t survive.

“We need the Welsh Government to do the right thing and think about animal welfare as their lives are important and tourism is the bloodline to Rhyl and North Wales. All animal sectors should be a priority when funding and grants are available, like England have.”

Colette, who has worked at the attraction for 28 years, and started six months after the attraction first opened, is hoping the opening of the Seal Cove area will bring in some much needed income, but added this will only be ‘a short term solution’.

“We are desperate and need to bring income in anyway to cover our ongoing cost for the animals for feeds, veterinary cost and life support systems for our marine life,” Colette said.

“As we expected we haven’t had many bookings [Monday] but this has given the team time to get ready to welcoming customers back through ours doors. We are getting busier with booking for the weekend.

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A young visitor feeds a harbour seal

“As the Seal Cove is outdoors and will be exposed to all weathers that the North Wales coast has, visitors will need to bring suitable clothing to protect them as there is no shelter or cover from the weather.

“We will we will continue to face a major financial shortfall through to the end of this year,” Colette added.

“We need help to continue to provide the best possible care for our animals and exhibits.

“The support from our local community has been overwhelming with fundraising and donations. We have done a GoFundMe page, an Amazon wishlist for food and sundries that we have to purchase regular which has helped us enormously.

Ashford Price, chair of the Welsh Association of Visitor Attractions (WAVA), has written to the First Minister Mark Drakeford stating ‘disaster looms for Welsh indoor attractions after July 18.’

He said: “The WAVA has worked with Visit Wales regarding the present pandemic crisis. All WAVA members have agreed that the health and safety of their staff and local people must come first.

“However, your present ‘blanket ban’ on indoor attractions still not being allowed to re-open will lead to over 4,500 jobs being lost, and many indoor Welsh attractions being forced into bankruptcy.”

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Colette is hoping the Seal Cove brings in some income

Colette has stressed the SeaQuarium is ‘ready to open and go’, as soon as the green light is given.

“We have introduced safe distancing measures for the safety of customers, employees and our animals by completed risk assessments,” Colette added.

We are putting other measures in as well including controlled capacity and online pre-booked tickets; booked time slots for visits and demonstrations; controlled entry points allowing for hand hygiene measures prior to entry; perspex screens have been added to protect staff and visitors and clear signage of new practices.

“SeaQuarium is designed to allow one-way routes with additional social distances co-ordinator in place to guide customers and as an aquarium, we are used to adhering to working practices that limit the spread of disease as a normal requirement to protect staff, animals and the public.

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Yellow tailed clownfish

“Frequent cleaning is also normal practice as it is necessary to have a high standard of cleanliness in order for visitors to clearly see displays.

“We’ve installed hand sanitisers for public use throughout the premises and visitors will be encouraged to adhere to signage and keep social distancing as a condition of entry.

“These are just some of the many measures which have been put in place to welcome customers back but yet we are still not permitted to open.”

The attraction has been awarded the VisitBritain ‘We’re Good to Go’ industry charter mark.

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Earlier this year the attraction welcomed Gina, Flo and Bubbles

“That means our attraction meets the Government and public health guidance on Covid-19 and that we have all the required health and safety processes in place to reopen on July 6,” Colette explained.

“We have done everything practical to manage transmission risk so our customer can enjoy the Seal Cove and meet the three new babies Gina, Flo and Bubbles

“We are hoping our local community will continue to support us and come and visit this area.”

North Wales Pioneer | Llandudno