The Morro Bay Aquarium assures that the seals will stay together once they relocate. Caroline Ster | Mustang News

The Morro Bay Aquarium, opened by the Tyler family in 1960, will officially close in September because their lease is ending. Once closed, the Central Coast Aquarium, located in Avila Beach, will rebuild a new and expanded aquarium in its place with a $20 million loan from the United States Department of Agriculture.

According to Harbor Director for the City of Morro Bay Eric Endersby, controversy has surrounded the Morro Bay Aquarium for several years because the facility has not been updated for years. Many people believe the aquarium should have been shut down years ago, Endersby said.

“[The aquarium is] from a different time. Obviously the facility there now meets modern standards, but barely,” Endersby said. “They are really a living treasure in this town and they’ve done a lot for
marine stewardship.”

Video by Emily Fagenstrom

This controversy even caught the attention of a VICE News reporter who wrote a story about the aquarium, calling it “America’s Worst Aquarium.” When the aquarium was put out for bid, the Tyler family submitted a proposal that, according to Endersby, included modest changes. However, the changes were not as dramatic as the city wanted.

While many people are excited for the new aquarium, many are also sad to see a Morro Bay landmark of more than 50 years go.

“It’s been there forever. I just have a lot of good childhood memories of playing inside the aquarium and being there,” Sandy Thorn, who grew up just one block from the aquarium, said. “I know it’s outdated and it’s probably a good thing now that it’s closing, but it’s served a great purpose.”

The animals in the aquarium have a secured future home, and the Morro Bay Aquarium has confirmed that the seals currently living in the aquarium will get to stay together.

“We wanted it to remain a marine aquarium of some sort with a large educational component to it, which is exactly what the Central Coast folks do,” Endersby said. Endersby said he hopes the Tylers will want to work with the new aquarium and assures the Central Coast Aquarium will honor the Tylers’ legacy.

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