AN UNDERWATER wonderland attraction admitted it is ‘barely treading water’ as it fights for it survival.

The SeaQuarium Rhyl has been closed to visitors since March 22.

The attraction, which is self funded and not a registered charity, received a massive blow earlier this month as the Welsh Government ‘rejected’ calls to establish a fund to help zoos and aquariums in Wales.

It has since joined forces with The Welsh Mountain Zoo in Colwyn Bay and Anglesey Sea Zoo and launched a petition, asking the Welsh Government to re-think it decision and set up a similar scheme as the UK Government.

In England, zoos and aquariums can apply for an animal welfare grant of up to £100,000.

Colette Macdonald, director at the SeaQuarium Rhyl, said: “The SeaQuarium won’t be able to keep treading water for more than a few months. We have some reserves and we are eating into them at the moment.

“We need additional support to help our business if we are not going to re-open at some point during the summer.

“It is very much a worrying time.

“This bank holiday the weather was glorious and it usually would be a very busy time for us.

“We need to be operational for August otherwise we are not going to be able to survive another winter without additional funding support.

"It is very difficult and these animals, they need looking after, they need feeding. We can't just shut the door and turn the lights off."

The SeaQuarium, which costs more than £20,000 a month to run, has received a bounce back loan and rate release as well of £25,000.

This will only tie the attraction over for the next few weeks.

“The £20,000 running costs cover animal feed, heating, electric, filtering, plants, life-support equipment and systems that needs to be maintained for the animals and is on 24 hours, seven days a week, and vet bills,” Colette added.

“Our electric bill for the month is £5,000. It is a lot.”

Rhyl Journal:

One of the new young South African / Cape Fur Seals

The attraction, which has furloguhed eight staff, as kept on five-full time staff to look after the seals as well as a vast majority of invertebrates and fish.

Colette, who has worked at the attraction for 28 years, and started six months after the attraction first opened, said: “For all zoos and aquariums, closing doors does not mean switching everything off, and furloughing all the staff and walking away.

“Apart from reductions in staffing costs, running costs are still at their highest point of the operation even though the doors are closed.

“There’s no doubt that these are challenging times for all us, but this crisis is one of the worst the SeaQuarium has ever faced in its 28 years of being in Rhyl.”

“Whilst the doors are closed, our dedicated and hard-working team are continuing to provide the best care for our amazing animals, as they always do. However, with so many species to care for, the SeaQuarium really does need support from the local people.”

Colette admitted that the SeaQuarium is very quiet without visitors.

“It is strange. The animals also miss that interaction,” she said.

Before the Covid-19 pandemic, the SeaQuarium was gearing up to announce it had welcomed three young South African / Cape Fur Seals.

The seals, all female, are named Gina, Flo and Bubbles

The marine mammals travelled 4,630 miles across Europe to their new home after Jardim Zoo contacted the centre; the attraction had been looking for new pups for resident seals Nelly and Solo.

Colette said: “We’ve had the new seals after tragically losing one of our older resident fur seals in winter last year due to old age.

“A female South African fur seal can be about five feet long. The seals are seen as gentle giants who are remarkably friendly.

“We had wanted to launch them at Easter.”

Despite not being able to show them off to visitors, the newcomers have boosted morale of staff during the current uncertain time.

Colette said: “It is a lovely time for us to have new animals, it has helped the staff, and Nelly and Solo are thrilled to have three new play friends. They did have to be quarantined when they first came in.

“We want the Welsh Government to recognise we have live animals.

“Everyone is crying out for funding but we need to think about the welfare of animals and for the Welsh Government to look at the sector and give individual attention.

“There is no plan for our re-opening on the road map and when this industry is going to open up again, which is a bit alarming.

"We know that everyone is struggling.

"If we can be told that we can open the outdoors then we can open just for the seal show.

"We are getting a lot of support from politicians, Visit Wales and DCC have sent us an email.

"Anyone in this industry knows it is not a 9-5 job.

"It is a very worrying time."

Dr James Davies, MP for Vale of Clwyd who has lent his support to the attraction, said: “The UK Government has put in place a ‘welfare grant’ of up to £100,000 for zoos and aquariums in England during the Covid-19 pandemic and it is very concerning that this scheme is yet to be replicated by the Welsh Government.

“I have had ongoing communication Colette, who is clearly very concerned about how the SeaQuarium will survive this pandemic without a specific support package.

“I have written to the Welsh Government calling for them to urgently address this.”

A letter, signed by Dr Davies and fellow MPs including Virginia Crosbie, David Jones and Fay Jones, has been sent to the Welsh Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs Welsh Government, Lesley Griffiths MS, emphasising the plight of zoos and aquariums in North Wales and again calling for a zoos and aquariums fund in Wales.

To view the petition, visit