Sunday, June 23, 2024

Officials say Sea of Cortéz Aquarium in Mazatlán close to opening

The largest aquarium in Mexico “will be inaugurated soon,” the head of the Ministry of Tourism (Sectur) said at a press conference this week about Mazatlán’s long-delayed Sea of Córtez Aquarium opening.

The yet-to-be-opened aquarium will be located in the western part of Mazatlán in Parque Central. Officials say they are expecting 900,000 visitors in its first year. 

At the media event, no opening date was announced, and Miguel Torruco Márquez talked mostly about the wonders of the new aquarium and its surroundings, the first public-private partnership project in Mexico’s tourism sector.

But just the fact that the ministry hosted the news media in Mexico City and issued a lengthy press release would seem to indicate an opening day in the not-too-distant future.

Various media speculations included “in the coming weeks” in the newspaper Debate and “at the end of April” from the TV Azteca station ADN 40. 

In February, frustrated Mazatlán Mayor Edgar Augusto González Zatarain stated that the 50,000-square-meter aquarium “must” open in two weeks (which would be Monday, March 6), but the only thing clear about the museum’s opening date is that it isn’t clear.

Mexico;s Tourism Minister Miguel Torruco
Federal Tourism Minister Miguel Torruco could give no opening date for the Mazatlán’s Sea of Cortez Aquarium at a press event this week, so he stuck to highlighting its wonders. (Photo: Government of Mexico)

Reportedly costing 1.8 billion pesos (US $99.3 million), the facility was originally supposed to open in April 2021. Several delays have occurred since then, although the transfer of some animals (such as penguins and sea lions) from the old Mazatlán aquarium to the new one reportedly has begun. 

The project is the joint work of three levels of government and the private sector, with reportedly 60% of the funding coming from the Kingu Mexicana company, owned by Sinaloa businessman Ernesto Coppel Kelly, founder and president of Pueblo Bonito Golf & Spa Resorts (and a new judge on “Shark Tank México”).

Other funds are coming from the national infrastructure fund (Fonadin), the national fund for tourism (Fonatur), the National Bank of Foreign Trade (Bancomext), the National Works and Public Services Bank (Banobras) and BanCoppel, according to media reports.

The facility’s floor plan is the largest in Latin America, and the aquarium will be “a catapult for tourism,” in Sinaloa, according to enthusiastic officials and investors.

Sinaloa Tourism Minister Estrella Palacios Domínguez said that the new aquarium will mark a “before and after” in the history of Mazatlán. Coppel Kelly said its opening will trigger the construction of hotel rooms and restaurants.

Designed by Mexican architect Tatiana Bilbao, whose works often merge geometry with nature, the aquarium will house some 260 marine species and have a 2.8 million-liter main exhibition tank, with a window that is 13 meters tall by 7 meters wide. 

Mexican businessman Ernesto Coppel Kelly
Ernesto Coppel Kelly, a major investor in the aquarium, is one of many believers who feel the new state-of-the-art aquarium will have a profound positive impact on Mazatlan as a tourist destination. (Photo: Germán Romero/Cuartoscuro)

Overall, its exhibition tanks will hold some 4.7 million liters of water, plus there will be 200 million liters in its large lake.

Márquez said there will be 36 species of mammals, 31 cetaceans (including gray, humpback and blue whales), five of the seven global species of sea turtles, as well as sharks, jellyfish and manta rays.

“This abundant marine fauna and the crystal-clear waters that bathe the coasts of the states of Baja California, Baja California Sur, Sonora and Sinaloa led Jacques Cousteau to call the Sea of Cortéz ‘the aquarium of the world,’” Márquez said.

In addition, the facility will include a botanical garden and interactive and educational exhibits that promote the region’s biodiversity and commitment to conservation. There will be 19 exhibition rooms, four inner courtyards and a 240-person auditorium. The modern buildings have striking architecture, plus terraces and roofs covered with vegetation.

When the aquarium does open, only the first 26,000 square meters of the project will be accessible. The second stage of 24,000 square meters will be finished in the fall of 2024, officials said. 

Some of the aquarium’s revenue will go toward a research center to preserve biodiversity in the Sea of ​​Cortéz.

With reports from ADN40, Debate and Gob.mx

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