Since its inception in 2002, the West Coast Aquatic Stewardship Association has had the core values of education and stewardship at the heart of the organization. Education has taken many forms, from working collaboratively with other groups, organizations, and governments to directly teaching students about the natural world. Over the last three years, the association has expanded its education and stewardship role within the school district and the general community. In order to move forward with the goal of increasing awareness, knowledge, skills and technology, while incorporating the goal of ensuring healthy and abundant species and habitat, a decision was made to pursue an aquarium and stewardship centre that would serve as a focal point for education within the local community, as well as provide visitors with an understanding of the region.
The purpose of the Alberni Aquarium and Stewardship Centre is to instil a sense of wonder for the natural beauty of the region and an appreciation for the complex nature of ecosystems. People who care about a place are more likely to protect and preserve that place. Children will learn to value their home from an early age and carry these lessons throughout their lives. The Aquarium will provide meaningful employment for young people and provide them with understanding of oceans as they move forward throughout their lives. Economic development will be enhanced in the region as the centre draws visitors to the area. Education programs will be developed and implemented with a different focus each year. Programming and education events will include offerings for all age groups and will run year round.
West Coast Aquatic seeks to produce innovative solutions to coastal concerns, and strengthen the understanding and relationships between parties that share a common interest in the health and wealth of aquatic resources, businesses, and communities. West Coast Aquatic is comprised of: a collaborative governance board that brings together governments, key sectors and communities to develop consensus-based outcomes for marine resources on the West Coast of Vancouver Island; a management association that provides technical and administrative support to the activities of the governance board; and a charitable organization that administers stewardship activities.