In a press release from the Portland Aquarium received Friday by Portland Parenting Examiner, Sunshine O’Connor, Vince Covino, co-founder and co-owner of the Portland Aquarium wrote, “I would like to take this time to address the public on the allegations against the Portland Aquarium. This controversy has taken on a life of its own and I would like to clear up any misconceptions and misunderstandings.”
The news broke earlier this month when Mike Corcoran, an exotic animal veterinarian who left the aquarium in February over animal welfare, came forward about why he left.
Corcoran turned over documents to the Oregonian including a death log that showed an “excessive” mortality rate for the aquarium.
Caroline Emch-Wei, a 25-year-old marine biologist who also left the Portland Aquarium said, “But there were so many deaths that were straight up preventable.”
The Humane Society is investigating allegations that animals were not quarantined correctly, denied food and health care, and that emergency conditions were being ignored to save money.
Ammon Covino, Vince Covino’s brother and co-owner of The Portland Aquarium is also under fire for illegally purchasing marine animals.
The brothers began their career in aquariums with their first project in Boise, Idaho.
Vince Covino believes that the allegations are set forth by disgruntled employees.
News of the allegations in Boise and Portland have halted work on the Austin, TX aquarium for now.
The Portland Aquarium denies that any fish were starved to death, saying “Some fish choose not to eat because they feel sick, and much like humans, don’t feel an urge to eat.”
When asked if they sacrifice animal health so they can cut costs or deny vet visits, they replied, “No. Our animals’ health is our number one priority. Money is never a factor when deciding the proper health care for a sick animal," and, “Never in the history of the aquarium has an employee requested a visit from a vet that was denied. In the event of an emergency, no advanced permission is required to have an animal seen by a vet.”
In an explanation about the reports of high mortality rates, the answer was, “The mortality data wasn’t read accurately. Most aquarium species have life expectancies ranging from eight months to 25 years. The majority of our species have life expectancies between two and eight years. The Giant Pacific Octopus, for instance, lives for roughly four years. However, if you acquire a three-year-old Giant Pacific octopus, his life expectancy is one year from the acquisition date.”
About the question of quarantine, the Portland Aquarium responded with, “Before being combined with other animals, all fish are appropriately quarantined to ensure they are safe, disease free, and cannot harm other fish. In some cases, fish are quarantined off site or by our suppliers.”
They also added, “Our staff biologists have recommended we implement a more detailed tracking system so that quarantine is more effectively measured and tracked for incoming animals,” and, “We will continue to review and enhance our quarantine procedures as we discover ways to make more improvements.”
Due to the allegations in Portland, UT Austin put a high tech exhibit partnership on hold for the Texas aquarium. One question raised by that is whether or not the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) exhibit will be built. Covino’s response to that questions was, “UT Austin has asked that we suspend our partnership with them until they have better clarity on the recent media articles.”
Vince Covino acknowledged the investigation by the Humane Society and that his brother plead guilty to purchasing marine life without a permit. He says, “The purchases in question were connection with the Idaho Aquarium. The Austin and Portland Aquariums are not connected to the Idaho Aquarium, which is a non-profit Aquarium.”
Covino also said, “As one of the most interactive aquariums in the world, we believe our aquarium provides the most memorable, enjoyable, and meaningful experience for children. “
Refunds are available for people who purchased annual passes to the Austin aquarium if they request them before the opening date.
Refunds for tickets or inactivated annual passes are also offered to anyone desiring them at the Portland Aquarium by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.