Friends Of Exploris Press Release

Friends of Exploris / Save Exploris

A group of local people established the Friends of Exploris, and are leading the “Save Exploris” campaign. We are now setting up a Trust to ensure that Exploris remains open, its operation is improved and to guide and support it into the future.

Local people are essential to Exploris’ future success and many of you have expressed the deep love and affection that you and your children have for what is finally becoming “our aquarium”.

The Board of the Trust will be firmly rooted in the local community and is supported by Portaferry Community Collective, representing all the town’s community groups, Portaferry Regeneration Ltd. and individual local residents and businesses. Board members will have extensive experience in aquarium and visitor attraction management, tourism, finance, marine science and environmental education and most will be well known in the town.   

We believe that Exploris should work to reduce its deficit  but the priority now is to get central Government intervention to halt the plans to close it in view of its services to education, wildlife conservation, scientific research and tourism.  We are meeting with the Minister for the Environment, Mark Durkan, to enlist his help and with many other politicians and senior officials over the coming weeks.      

At the same time we are looking at models to improve the Aquarium’s long term management and operation which include public / private sector partnerships and other mechanisms that would make Exploris once more a centre of excellence as an aquarium, a marine and coastal education facility and a visitor attraction.  

Exploris attracts approx. 100,000 visitors to this area every year 

Each year it brings £3m to the local economy 

We thank Ards Borough Council for supporting Exploris financially down through the years but it is time for a change not just in funding but also in the way Exploris is operated and managed.

We are setting up ways to keep you up to date including a website and meetings.

In the meantime if you want to get in touch with us:

Friends of Exploris, c/o No. 30 The Square, Portaferry


Friends of Exploris

For those following the Save Exploris Campaign who aren’t on facebook, Friends of Exploris have posted this on their facebook page this morning:

Hello folks just to let you know that Portaferry Community Collective, Portaferry Regeneration and Queens University with support from Beannchor who operate the Portaferry Hotel and a number of specialists in heritage management are at the core of Friends of Exploris and the campaign to Save Exploris.

We began the campaign to Save Exploris because it is still a hugely successful visitor attraction, if only because it generates £3m to the local economy annually. It is also a much loved marine life centre.

We believe that new models of management would make Exploris a more viable business proposition and that it should not solely rely on government handouts.

A different model of operation would also allow it to reach for the kind of status that would set it on the world stage of quality visitor attractions and marine life centres and re-energise its programme of activty. This is very difficult to achieve under local government management for many reasons.

We also believe that Exploris should have not only local government but central government support because of its services to education, wildlife conservation, scientific research, tourism and the local economy which need to be protected as a Northern Ireland asset for the long term. This support can take many forms.

We are currently working up models along public / private sector / charity trust lines and it would be premature for us to recommend a way forward as yet.

We are also meeting with Government Ministers, senior government officials and other key bodies.

We would also again thank Ards Borough Council for supporting Exploris financially down through the years and for giviing us this window of opportunity. We look forward to working with them in the interests of the whole Borough.

In the meantime you can all please help by going to Exploris – we know that it has suffered from a lack of investment but it is still your aquarium and you have already shown that you can save it if you work collectively to do so.

We will work our hardest in the meantime behind the scenes.

Please also check out the Save Exploris Facebook page – it is not run by us but another individual “Friend” who is doing a great job – thank you.

Obviously we’ll keep you up to date with details of the campaign here on the Gala Site and here are various links dedicated to Saving Exploris.

Links :
Save Exploris Aquarium Facebook Page
Friends of Exploris Facebook Page
Save Exploris Twitter Feed

Save Exploris Aquarium
Save Exploris
Petition to Northern Ireland Assembly

Please sign and follow if you feel strongly about this issue.

Decision on Exploris postponed for two months….

Ards Borough Council met tonight, Wed 25th, and have decided to postpone the decision on closing Exploris for a further two months. This gives some breathing space to the groups working to save the Northern Ireland Aquarium.


If you feel strongly about this issue, please sign the petition by clicking here.
If you are a facebook user, please like this page : Friends of Exploris on Facebook

Save Exploris Petition

Exploris Portaferry is a unique facility for tourism, education and recreation within Northern Ireland. It is Northern Ireland’s only aquarium and reflects the very special marine environment of Strangford Lough, an Area of Special Scientific Interest, and the neighbouring Irish Sea. It has a seal sanctuary and tends to other distressed marine creatures. 

It provides seawater for the adjacent Queens University Marine Laboratory. While Exploris does not make money and has substantial running costs, it delivers a footfall of 100,000 people a year to Portaferry, which has a tremendous impact for local businesses in an area already suffering from high unemployment and rural deprivation. 

The loss of Exploris will have a devastating effect on Portaferry and the surrounding area.

If you feel strongly about this issue, please sign the petition by clicking here.