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Walk-in hours resume at Kodiak Fisheries Research Center’s touch tank due to new staffing arrangement

Kodiak’s Touch Tank and Aquarium could reopen to the public in the coming weeks. (Photo: NOAA Fisheries)
Kodiak’s Touch Tank and Aquarium could reopen to the public in the coming weeks. (Photo: NOAA Fisheries)

Getting an up-close look at a variety of marine life at Kodiak’s touch tank just got a little easier. Visitors of the aquarium and touch tank at the Kodiak Fisheries Research Center on Near Island can now stop by KFRC without booking an appointment first. Walk-in hours were brought back last week on March 19, which haven’t been offered consistently since before the pandemic.

Kodiak Island Borough Manager Aimee Williams said the Borough has been coordinating with staff from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to provide more accessibility to the public again.

“So starting on March 19 the touch tank will be open on Tuesdays and Thursday afternoons from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m,” Williams said during a Kodiak Island Borough Assembly meeting on March 7. “NOAA is going to do it on Thursdays in the afternoon and KIB staff will do it on Tuesday in the afternoons. So we’ll have regular openings to the public, so we’re really excited about that.”

During CommFish in April, the touch tank open hours will be adjusted for a couple days according to Williams.

David Conrad, the director of engineering and facilities for the Borough, leads the department that oversees the KFRC facility which is owned by the Borough. Conrad said walk-in hours were removed after funding for the touch tank’s interpretive specialist position dried up years ago. But now, that cost is being split between the Borough and NOAA.

“Hopefully it enhances the experience because some of the folks that are going to be staffing it for NOAA are actually biologists and scientists so there may be some additional quality information that is able to be disseminated to the public,” Conrad said.

Prior to 2020, roughly 15,000 people visited the touch tank annually, according to NOAA’s website.

Williams and Conrad also point out that tourist season is around the corner, which is an opportune time to provide more public access to the touch tank. Conrad said Kodiak Island School District schools will also be able to arrange school field trips to the facility this spring.

For more information about visiting the Kodiak Fisheries Research Center’s Aquarium and Touch Tank, contact the Kodiak Island Borough at 907 486 9342.