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Our Story

Our Mission

With our community and partners, we celebrate our natural wonders and inspire people to make a difference for aquatic life.


Our Vision

To be a destination of choice where all are welcome and motivated to join as a driving force for aquatic life.


Our Story

Over 50 years ago, on June 12, 1965, the Aquarium of Niagara was opened as a privately-owned corporation. Founded by a small group of chemists and scientists, the first goal was to introduce an artificial seawater formula specifically for inland aquariums. This seawater formula, Instant Ocean, is now used by most inland aquariums around the world. For the first time in this area, technology was applied on a large scale in the preparation, handling, and management of synthetic seawater.

In the 1960s, the Aquarium acquired its first dolphin, Buster, an Amazon river dolphin. Soon thereafter, Buster was joined by a few bottlenose dolphins. The dolphins were the biggest attraction here at the Aquarium with their fun and playful performances, but in 1995, the dolphins left the Aquarium of Niagara and the sea lions were moved permanently into the main pool.

The 1970s were an exciting time at the Aquarium; in 1978 our Humboldt penguin colony was established. The penguins’ first successful hatch was Josephine in 1984. In the following years, our penguins were a prolific breeding colony; in the ’90s the Aquarium even welcomed six new additions in one year! Our penguins are very important to us and Western New York, our new Penguin Coast exhibit was opened in March 2018.

The Aquarium of Niagara is proud to be a rescue facility and is evolving into the premier facility for blind seals. In 1980 the Aquarium acquired Sandy, a Pacific harbor seal, who was rescued off the coast of Washington state as a stranded pup. Sandy developed cataracts, which are very prominent in pinnipeds, and in 1987 she became the first seal ever to have successful cataract surgery. The 1980s also provided a brand new outdoor pool where the seals and sea lions resided, and is where our seals continue to be housed today.

The Niagara Aquarium Foundation was established and incorporated by charter from the Board of Regents of the State University of New York on February 18, 1994.

Core Values

Core values are the soul of an organization – these qualities that reflect how the organization treats its entire “family” and community; words that express how they wish to be thought of. Core values are traits that the team will commit to living throughout their work life. 

Passion: Our passion for our work keeps us going; it drives us to become even better, exceeding expectations every day.

Transparency: To us, transparency means that all of us share an understanding of our decisions and our actions. We value the trust our organization has placed in us and respect the confidence.

Empathy: Empathy helps us understand others’ feelings and emotions. It helps us embrace another’s point of view no matter how different our backgrounds or our culture, building stronger bonds and leading to better problem solving.

Diversity: We not only recognize our differences, we value them. We’re building a culture of inclusion and believe that our diversity makes us stronger and better.

Collaboration: Collaboration adds value to our work; by working together, we learn from each other and build on our strengths. True collaboration means negotiating, compromising, and most of all valuing another’s point of view.