The Oregon Coast Aquarium is an aquarium in Newport, Oregon. It is perhaps best known for having housed Keiko, the orca from the movie Free Willy, from January 1996 until 9 September 1998, when he was shipped to Vestmannaeyjar, Iceland. Even without its former star attraction, USA Today and Coastal Living Online have ranked the Oregon Coast Aquarium among the top ten aquariums in the United States.
The Oregon Coast Aquarium's collection focuses on the flora and fauna native to the Oregon Coast. The largest exhibit is called "Passages of the Deep". Housed in Keiko (orca)'s former tank, Passages of the Deep allows visitors to walk through acrylic tunnels, surrounded by deep water marine animals such as sharks, rays, and rockfish. The aquarium also boasts marine mammals, specifically sea lions, seals, and sea otters, in addition to a sea bird aviary. There are also several exhibits focusing on the smaller marine life in the area, including jellyfish and a tidepool exhibit designed to allow visitors to touch starfish and sea anemones.
The indoor exhibits include three permanent displays: Sandy Shores, Rocky Shores, and Coastal Waters. The first features fish and invertebrates that live either close to shore, or in bays such a Yaquina Bay
. Progressing, the aquarium displays feature animals further offshore ending in a kelp
forest and Sea jelly
exhibit. Flanking the permanent displays are the changing exhibits.
at Oregon Coast Aquarium exhibits sea and shore birds. Those on display include the sea birds Tufted Puffin
, Common Murre
, Rhinoceros Auklet
, Pigeon Guillemot
, and the shore bird Black Oystercatcher
. The seabird aviary includes two large pools and rocky cliffs. The aquarium also exhibits Snowy Plovers
, a threatened species on the U.S. west coast.
Outside the main building, beside the Aviary, are the outdoor mammal exhibits. They contain sea otters
, and sea lions
Passages of the Deep
Passages of the Deep currently houses three sections. Orford Reef is the first area, containing mostly Rockfish
and other smaller Pacific-Northwest fish. Halibut Flats contains, in addition to Rockfish, Halibut
, Ling cod
, a small ray and other large fish. Halibut Flats also holds a mock sunken ship. Open Waters is last in the tunnel and has no rockwork. Instead of rockfish, it holds many species of sharks
. It recently welcomed the addition of seven gill sharks
Changing exhibit area
Recent exhibits include an extensive collection of live jellies, some of which remain permanently, an educational and entertaining exhibit featuring crabs called Claws
. The current exhibit is Oddwater
, which features unusual sea creatures such as the green-blooded Cuttlefish
, the jet powered Chambered Nautilus
, and the bright-eyed flashlight fish