The Oceanário de Lisboa is an oceanarium located in the parish of Parque das Nações, in the city of Lisbon, district of the same name, in Portugal. It is a public aquarium and research institution on Marine Biology and Oceanography. It is the second largest oceanarium in the Iberian Peninsula, containing an extensive collection of species – birds, mammals, fish and other marine inhabitants. In 2017, it was considered on TripAdvisor as the best oceanarium in the world.
It was built and inaugurated as part of Expo 98, the last world exhibition of the 20th century, with the theme “Oceans, a Heritage for the Future”.
The conceptual, architectural and exhibition designs are from the North American architect Peter Chermayeff. Its pavilion resembles an aircraft carrier and is installed on a jetty surrounded by water.
In April 2011, the inauguration of a new building, the “Edifício do Mar”, designed by the architect Pedro Campos Costa, marked the completion of the Oceanário expansion project. The new facilities increased the institution’s offer with services that reinforce its role in promoting knowledge of the oceans. The new building includes an area dedicated to temporary exhibitions, a new reception area for visitors and ticket offices, an auditorium and a restaurant, the “Tagus”.
On December 18, 2009, the Oceanarium reached 14 million visitors. In 2010 it was visited by 951,543 people. In 2012 it had reached 16 million, constituting a reference of culture, leisure, entertainment and education in the country. In 2012, it received about 900 thousand visitors, about 320 thousand Portuguese and 600 thousand tourists.
The institution maintains partnerships with institutions and universities in scientific research and nature conservation projects. Through its Education Program, it has been developing a social responsibility project since June 2005, the “Oceanic Shuttle – Environmental Education in Motion”, with the mission of disseminating the Oceanário through the country, offering educational experiences of free access organized to municipalities. At the end of May 2012, the Shuttle visited the 100th municipality, Vila do Porto, on the island of Santa Maria, in the Azores, on its first trip outside the mainland.
The company Oceanário de Lisboa, of which Parque Expo was the sole shareholder, recorded a net profit of 975,869 euros in 2012, a figure that represents a fall of 30.6% in relation to the previous year. The number of visitors to this equipment was also 5% lower than in 2011. Private concession of the Lisbon Oceanarium was one of the measures planned by the Government in 2014.
In April 2015, Parque Expo, a public company in liquidation created to manage Expo’98, delivered to the state the Oceanário building and another one to support part of its debt. The overall amount of the operation was EUR 54.2 million.
The Oceanário marked on February 27, 2016 the 20 million visitors.
In July 2015 the oceanarium was licensed for 30 years.
Five proposals were presented:
Spanish group Aspro Parks (owner of Aqualand amusement park in Alcantarilha, Algarve, among other European parks)
Portuguese company Mundo Aquatico (manager of the Zoomarine Algarve park)
Francisco Manuel dos Santos Foundation (from the Soares dos Santos family)
French group Compagnie des Alps (administrator of more than a dozen leisure parks, including Futuroscope and Parc Asterix, museums and ski areas)
Spanish company Parques Reunidos, which manages 56 parks in Europe, the United States and Argentina.
The Francisco Manuel dos Santos Company, the largest shareholder of the Jerónimo Martins group, won the Oceanário concession tender. State has achieved a financial backing of 114 million euros.
With a total area of twenty thousand square meters, the Oceanarium has about 7,500,000 liters of water divided by more than 30 aquariums and eight thousand organisms, including animals and plants, of five hundred different species.
In the interior, the main attraction is the central aquarium, with 5,000,000 liters, representing the Global Ocean, where several fish species such as sharks, barracudas, rays, tunas and small tropical fish coexist. Four different aquariums stand out for their natural richness in terms of fauna and flora, the marine habitats of the North Atlantic (Azores coast), the Antarctic Ocean, the temperate Pacific (rocky coasts) and the tropical Indian Ocean ( coral reef). Separated from the central aquarium by large strategically placed acrylic panels creates the illusion of being in front of a single aquarium.
Today, the permanent exhibition celebrates life on Earth with a vast collection of living beings, evoking the complex diversity that inhabits the global ocean, and its role in the balance and evolution of life on the planet.
The chosen mascot of the Lisbon Oceanarium is the Vasco doll (with the motto: “Vasco é boa onda!”), In reference to the Portuguese navigator Vasco da Gama. The “Vasco” is in two places to “greet” visitors: in front of the main entrance and in the bay in front of the Oceanarium.