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Morro Bay Aquarium may change ownership

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The decades-long controversy that is the Morro Bay Aquarium could see a less-contentious future, as it’s in line for some new management, as well as a facelift.

The Morro Bay City Council recently voted unanimously to help work with the Central Coast Aquarium—a nonprofit located in Avila Beach—to draft a proposal for operating and redeveloping the property, as well as to potentially take over the lease in 2018 from Dean and Bertha Tyler. The aquariums have until the end of the year to submit the proposal for approval by the council.

“It’s an agreement and a partnership between the Central Coast Aquarium, Cal Poly, and the Morro Bay Aquarium to write a proposal to take over the lease site in 2018,” Councilmember Christine Johnson said. “The Central Coast Aquarium is very interested in pursuing this. They’re partnered with Cal Poly, but they’re the main drivers.”

Additionally, Johnson said should the proposal go forward, they plan on making significant renovations to the property in order to receive accreditation from the Association of Zoos & Aquariums, which ensures that the care of the animals, exhibits, and the safety of both animals and visitors are up to standards. The Morro Bay Aquarium currently doesn’t have accreditation.

Tara Malzone, the executive director of the Central Coast Aquarium, said they would be planning to work in conjunction with the university should things move forward. The plans include creating a marine research lab for the university students, as well as a dock for Cal Poly’s marine research crafts and renovations to some of the existing enclosures and exhibits.

“We were approached by the city of Morro Bay about taking over the lease,” Malzone said. “And we’re very aware that we have a legacy to honor with the Tylers. Our mission is to cultivate a community dedicated to ocean stewardship, and we plan to promote that through education, engagement, and action.”

Malzone said that the new updates would strictly focus on the aquarium functioning as a research and education facility for non-mammalian animals, as well as marine plant life.

The Tylers, who own the seals and sea lions currently residing at the aquarium, were unavailable for comment as of press time.

“We’ve been honored to serve the residents and visitors of Avila Beach, and we’re happy to serve the residents and visitors of Morro Bay like we have in Avila for the past 20 years,” Malzone said.

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