Signs are going up and fish continue to arrive at the Austin Aquarium site in Northwest Austin, despite setbacks with city permitting and an investigation into animal cruelty allegations at another location.
"Everything is on schedule. We have a permit expediter that is doing a terrific job. We reconfirmed that we think we are going to open this November," Vince Covino, one of the aquarium’s co-owners, said.
Covino said code compliance officers returned to his business Wednesday to follow up on earlier issues. Last month, Austin’s code compliance department cited the Austin Aquarium for not having an occupancy permit to house their fish and quarantine tanks.
Meanwhile, Covino is refuting claims that fish at his Portland Aquarium are not getting proper care from staff.
“The reality is they are doing a fantastic job,” Covino said. “They have never been turned down for any expenses from vets."
Tuesday, the Oregonian published what’s said to be a log of animal deaths recorded at the Portland Aquarium. That log was provided to them by a former employee who quit the aquarium, according to the newspaper.
The log notes more than 200 animal deaths in a three-month span. The listed causes of death include loss of power, starvation and even depression.
"If my log says depressed and one of my marine biologists really wrote that, I would sit down and visit with them and say, 'Can you show me the psych evaluation on this fish?'” Covino said. “We did not have depressed, starving fish."
As for the log itself, Covino said that he hadn’t seen it and couldn’t verify its authenticity, but did say a death log is maintained daily by a staff marine biologist.
Speaking outside of the Austin Aquarium site, Covino said the release of the death log will not be taken lightly.
"An event like this causes you to circle the wagons, visit with all of your team members and say, 'Look, are there any things that can be done here to enhance our systems?’" Covino said.
He says the three-month snapshot does not give a fair look at the broader picture. It also doesn't take into account the age of the fish when they arrived or their average life spans.
If the trend continues, Covino says the Portland Aquarium would have an eight-percent mortality rate.
YNN contacted Erin Paxton, a spokesperson for an aquarium in Newport, Oregon who said they have 15,000 animals and fewer than 150 of their animals die each year. That equates to an annual mortality rate of less than one percent.
Click the video below for the full interview with Vince Covino.
YNN: Austin Aquarium owner responds to animal cruelty allegations
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