Friends of Exploris is new group set up in response to the decision by Ards Borough Council to close Northern Ireland’s Aquarium subject to receiving an offer of support from central Government.
The motion read: “The house recognises the great potential in the Exploris Aquarium in Portaferry, Northern Ireland; expresses concern at its closure; and asks that the Northern Ireland Executive take the burden from one council and give this Province-wide attraction the financial boost that is needed and which will benefit the whole of Northern Ireland.”
Speaking on behalf of Friends of Exploris, Dr. Bob Brown, marine conservationist, said: “Government is on the brink of losing a priceless asset. It needs to act now across Departments to develop the Exploris Aquarium in Portaferry into a regional showcase and public engagement platform for our internationally important marine life, our fisheries and our globally important tidal energy research”.
“The recently introduced Marine Act has put an even greater emphasis on understanding the marine environment and the role that we all must play in looking after Strangford Lough and our other internationally important marine sites for future generations
“Tidal energy experimentation taking place outside Exploris’ front door is leading world innovation in this important new source of renewable energy, and indeed bringing the world to Northern Ireland to witness it.
“If Northern Ireland did not already have an Exploris Aquarium, government would undoubtedly support setting it up at this time.
“Thinking that Exploris is a failed visitor attraction is simply not true. It is a hugely successful aquarium which has for decades attracted 100,000 visitors a year and has made a real return on the investment to date in terms of benefits to the rural economy, tourism, science and education. It will thrive if changes are made to its marketing and business approach.”
A statement on the government investment opportunity at Exploris is available on Facebook “friends of exploris” . Early day motion: www.parliament.uk/edm/2013-14/
Friends of Exploris is also currently working closely with NIPSA and other groups and agencies on a cross-party steering group seeking Central government support for the Province–wide asset.
Friends of Exploris is ;located at: c/o 30 The Square, Portaferry, County Down BT22 1LR.