I went to the brand-new Portland Aquarium last week expecting it to be an abysmal scam, instead finding it to be a surprisingly cute and interactive place that was marginally better than what I expected from an aquarium built in six months in a former steakhouse.
But I want to post an excerpt from a letter written by reader Guilyn Maros because it's a worthwhile assessment of the place from someone with higher expectations. The aquarium is a good little wonderland for kids, but it's not really an aquarium. "Rather unregulated fish petting zoo" is a much better description.
From Guilyn Maros:
I was SO excited for an Aquarium to open up in Portland, eagerly bought a living social family membership, and went for the first time with my toddler.
I was pretty horrified with what I saw. Even on their facebook page, they refer to themselves as a 'petting zoo'—and that is what they are: a fish petting zoo.
I was shocked that kids could touch all the animals in so many of the super tiny 'tanks'—with not only no hand washing (how is this healthy for the animals??), there is also no supervision of the numerous children touching the creatures. There was a little boy in front of me who ripped a sea anemone off the wall, and squeezed it so hard in his hand that it flew out of his grip, and slammed into the wall (not exaggerating). The seahorses in another tank were floating dead at the top of their tank. Don't get me wrong—my toddler loved his visit there. But I was horrified at the conditions for the creatures, and can't in good conscience support a business like that who is obviously more concerned about making money than it is about the well being of the creatures there.
On my visit, I asked about the wisdom of letting kids poke their hands into the tanks and was told that powerful filters keep the water clean. There's also staff in every room, but I could definitely see how on a busy day, a kid among the crowd could squeeze an anemone to death unseen.