Portland Aquarium

Portland Aquarium's owners are responsible for 200 animal deaths (in Portland), the illegal acquisition of wild animals (in Florida), obstructing justice through orders to destroy the evidence, violation of building codes (in Austin), and non-transparent business practices (in Boise).

Portland Aquarium’s founders are responsible for 200 animal deaths (in Portland), conspiracy to illegal obtain wild animals (in Florida), obstructing justice through orders to destroy evidence, violation of building codes (in Austin), and non-transparent business practices (in Boise). Are these the people you want educating our children about the world?

Portland Aquarium Action Schedule (2013)

Public Forum on the Portland Aquarium
Sunday, December 1st, 2013
3:00pm – 6:00pm at the Red and Black Cafe

Caught Red Handed, a Demonstration
Saturday, December 7th, 2013
11am – 1pm at the Portland Aquarium

(more coming soon)


Our Portland Aquarium Campaign

Portland Animal Liberation urges the public to boycott the Portland Aquarium and organize with us and concerned residents across the country to shut it down.

While PAL does not endorse any aqua prison, we have chosen to campaign against the Portland Aquarium because of its proximity, its terrible national publicity, and the growing public outrage. We believe this is a winnable campaign.

The Portland Aquarium is less than a year old and is associated through its owners with other irresponsibly run aquariums in Boise and Austin. Concerned residents (with no history of animal advocacy) in Portland, Austin, and elsewhere are eager to organize together for the same end: to shut these businesses down. A victory would set a historical precedent for sea animal advocacy and serve as an example for future campaigns against the commodification of animals in Portland.

A Roundtable Discussion about the Portland Aquarium on A Growing Concern (channel 23) (Nov. 1, 2013)


Why the Portland Aquarium:

* A Terrible Beginning: In December 2012, the Portland Aquarium opened in a former strip club in Milwaukee, OR. In under six months of operation, at least 200 animals had died – that’s an 8 percent mortality rate.

* Negligence: On August 19, 2013, The Oregonian reported that “bamboo sharks, sea horses, garden eels, sea stars, crabs and dozens of fish” died from a wide range of known and unknown causes including “starvation, infection, high temperatures, [and] animal-on-animal attacks.” A former veterinarian at the aquarium considered these death unnecessary due to negligent practices such as a failure to sufficiently quarantine new arrivals and provide timely emergency treatment.

* Resignations: Originally, the aquarium had a director with 25 years of experience, however, he left before the facility opened due to concerns about animal care and safety. In the last year, two staff from the Portland Aquarium plus others from the Boise facility have left or have been dismissed because of  similar concerns.[*]

* Investigations: Currently, the Oregon Humane Society is investigating the Portland Aquarium’s practices. Meanwhile, the Idaho Humane Society is investigating the Boise facility on allegations of negligent animal care.[*]

* Fishy Business Practices: Negligence at the Portland and Idaho Aquariums is not an isolated case, but a story intimately connected to a slew of other national controversies.

* Filthy Business: In September, former employees of the Idaho Aquarium (co-founded by Vince Covino — who also owns the for-profit gift store) came out with stories of poor animal care and unreported animal deaths. For instance, Mortimer the Pacific octopus allegedly died of toxicity after staff was told by Chris Conk to change the tank water less frequently in order to cut costs. Further, numerous animals are unaccounted for in the death log, including a Pacific octopus, puffin, caimans, nautilus, and sharks.[*]

* Criminal Activity: While Portland animals were dying, Ammon Covino (co-founder of the Idaho and Portland Aquarium) was arrested on February 21 for illegally purchasing four eagle rays and two lemon sharks throughout 2012 without permits for the Idaho Aquarium. Allegedly, Vince Covino (Ammon’s brother) also attempted to illegally acquire lemon sharks for the Portland Aquarium in October 2012, but to little success.[*] In April, the USFW confiscated three puffins because the Idaho Aquarium didn’t have the required permit. Not only that, but the aquarium violated the law by allowing the public to feed migratory birds.[*]

* Building Violations: The Covino-run aquariums also have continuously failed to acquire necessary permits for its buildings for over a year. In December 2012, opening day of the Portland site, Covino lacked an occupancy permit.[*]  On September 13, the Covinos were then ordered to remove all animals from the site because of their failure to acquire the necessary permits for holding livestock and constructing the foundation for the fish tanks in the former furniture retail building.[*]

*Further Consideration: Negligence in Oregon, illegal purchases in Florida, corruption in Idaho, and mishaps in Austin aside, there are other factors which have us doubt that reform is an adequate response.

* Poor Credentials: First, the founders of the Portland Aquarium and its affiliates have poor credentials for taking care of animals. Many aquariums are operated by people who have earned a degree in marine biology and who seek accreditation from the AZA (Association of Zoos & Aquariums). Vince and Ammon Covino have done neither. [*]

* Terrible Business Histories: Second, the administrators of these aquariums have a history of irresponsible business practices. In April 2012, Vince was suspended by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) after violating a couple National Association of Securities Dealers’ (NASD) rules regarding borrowing and lending to customers. Over twenty former clients alleged that Vince had lead them into high risk investments that resulted in financial losses. Not only did Vince violate FINRA/NASD rules, but also the rules of the firm he worked for.[*]

Risky Business: Third, there is reason to believe that the very transportation of sea life is risky business. According to Shane Dietz, the current director at the Portland site, transportation of “exotic” animals is the number one cause of mortality, accounting to 98 percent of it. These animals may be cramped into small boxes, jostling around for days on a several thousand-mile journey to an aquarium. If we are concerned about the deaths of the animals at this aquarium, we must question the risks all aquariums put their wild animals through.[*]

* Organized Outrage: The deeds of the Covino-run aqua prisons have not gone without notice. Over 2,000 people (including former employees) are following opposition Facebook pages in Portland, Boise, and Austin as of Sep. 30.

* To the Streets: Concerned residents in Portland have began organizing, and there has already been a protest. Allies in Austin have also began protesting their aquarium, several months before its opening day. Oppositionists in Idaho have hacked the Idaho Aquarium’s twitter to expose their irresponsible practices and have also picketed.

* Partners No More: Austin residents have pressured Groupon and Val-Pac to drop business with their aquarium, and the University of Texas has terminated its partnership with them.

* Empty Parking Lots: According to Interim Director of the Idaho Aquarium, since the stream of bad press, visitor-ship to the aquarium has dropped by a devastating 60 percent, and the aquarium is no longer covering operating costs through ticket sales.[*] Meanwhile in Portland, residents and activists have reported the aquarium’s parking lot looks abandoned during the weekends, and employees have expressed grief over cut hours.[*]

Join us and concerned residents across the nation to shut down this chain of negligent businesses!


What You Can Do:

1. Boycott the Portland and Austin Aquariums

2. Attend our upcoming “Caught Red Handed” demonstration:
Saturday, December 7, 11am – 1pm @ PDX Aquarium

3. Follow, share, and like social media opposing the aquariums:
Boycott Austin, Boycott Portland, Boycott Idaho, Portland Animal Liberation, twitter

4. Leaflet at community events, businesses, and in your neighborhood
PSU’s Farmers Market, Animal-friendly Businesses and Restaurants

5. Write to the PA’s business partners and sponsors:
Chinook Book, Groupon, Half-Off Deals, the Board of Clackamas County

6. Speak up at your school and in your school district:
write to and attend the school board, speak with teachers


For more information, see FreeTheSea.org and our resource page