2020 has forced re-invention: Bay Ecotarium chief


As California obeys stay-at-home orders in view of the coronavirus crisis, businesses and facilities dependent on public footfall are struggling the most.

2020 has forced us to re-invent ourselves,” George Jacob, president & CEO of the Bay Ecotarium in San Francisco Bay Area, told indica News on shutting doors again past week due to increasing Covid-19 cases.

The aquarium usually attracts 600,000 visitors from across the globe annually. This year it received just 25,000, forcing it to suffer loss worth $9 million.

The Ecotarium is part of the Aquarium Of TheBay in San Francisco. Jacob oversees a staff of 200 at its six institutions — The Aquarium of the Bay, The Bay Institute, the Sea Lion Center, the Eco Center at Heron’s Head Park, the Bay Model Alliance, and the Bay Academy.

Jacob told indica News that the first shutdown that lasted for 27 weeks depleted their fiscal resources and stretched staff strength to “thinnest in our 24-year history.”

As San Francisco slid back into purple [tier of restrictions] on week 33, after a short-lived hiatus of five weeks, we find ourselves shut yet again with little respite, as we wind down to a difficult holiday season ahead that could see Covid cases spike,” said Jacob.

We are dependent on tourism and local visitations. As long as both these sectors remain impacted, all attractions — museums, zoos, aquariums, parks and destinations — will continue to see downward trends,” he said.

As temporary solutions, some digital tools are helping. The Ecotarium is also innovating.

We will continue to provide virtual tours, e-learning modules, dive certification programs, live-stream educational lessons, virtual birthday parties, eco-store facemask sales, field expeditions, books and publications, and lend consulting expertise to organizations around the world,” Jacob said.

We are currently enrolling the next round of citizen scientist divers, including peak performance buoyancy, fish ID, and underwater digital photography,” he said.

Jacob is also part of a project on marine ecology conservation, called Climate Resilience and Ocean Conservation Living Museum and Aquarium.

Asked about the status of that project, he said: “I think the project will gain much positive traction in months ahead. It is a landmark institution in the making with a mandate to effectively connect the dots, explain climate change, examine the consequences of inaction and address progressive innovation towards sustainable resilience and lifestyle efficiencies. We hope to launch a $260-million capital fundraising campaign on World Oceans Day (June 8, 2021).”

However, at the moment, in the middle of a raging pandemic, Jacob said it was best “to shore up resources to meet our operational needs, bring back furloughed employees and work towards a collaborative strategy to meet challenges of the new normal.”