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The Sea Life Centre, at the easten end of Madeira Drive, could be described as a marine aquarium housed in a museum. It claims to be the oldest operating aquarium in the world. It's main aquarium hall with its vaulted roof supported by columns of granite and marble is listed as having special architectural merit and therefore must be preserved. Opened in 1872, it's no surpise that the interior of the aquarium has a quaint, Victorian feel about it.

The exterior of the building has been demolished and rebulit a number of times, and differing types of facilities have come and gone - reading rooms, nightclub, ballroom, band stand, slot machines, video games, etc.

Today the aquarium has 157 marine species and 57 displays. It's big attraction is the shark pool with its underwater tunnel.

A popular attraction for families with small children and for primary school educational visits.

These days keeping wild animals in captivity is always a controversial issue. The aquarium used to have a dolphinarium, but it was eventually closed because of hostile public pressure. In more recent years there have been protests - in the language of the protesters - against a "seal and otter prison". 

The Sea Life network of aquariums are themselves prepared to protest in the name of animal welfare. In the run up to Christmas '07 the 25 Sea Life centres across Europe called for a boycott of Japanese goods in protest against Japan's persistent killing of whales for "scientific purposes". And over the weekend of Dec 1st and 2nd  any child under 14 who signed a special ‘message to Santa' asking him not to bring them anything made in Japan for Christmas,was given free admission.

More on the history of the aquarium can be found here

 

Sea Life Centre