The Basel Zoo has plans to create a large aquarium on the Heuwaage in Basel.
The costs for implementing the "Ozeanium Basel" will amount to more than 100 million Swiss francs. We are of the opinion that this ecologically and economically wasteful project must be prevented!

The world's oceans face unprecedented threat. Almost a third of the coral reefs have been destroyed, and that figure will increase by 20 percent in 10 to 20 years. Large aquariums promote this destruction because they depend on the import of many species of ocean-dwelling animals, which are not cultivable in artificial habitats.

Extracting animals from their already vulnerable ecosystems weakens them. Various coral fish are locally extinct or threatened with extinction, i.e., the Banggai cardinal fish.

The Ozenaium initiators justify the construction of the Grossaquarium with the argument that they protect rare species and promote education. The reverse is true: the Ozeanium contributes to the destruction of the ecosystems it claims to sensitize it’s audience to.



Eight reasons why Basel does not need an Ozeanium

Almost a third of the coral reefs have been destroyed. Ozeanium Basel contributes to the weakening of marine ecosystems by removing coral reef fish from their natural habitat.

Read more
Close ✕

Coral reefs are highly endangered

Almost a third of the coral reefs have been destroyed, and that figure will increase by 20% in 10 to 20 years (1). 

Extracting animals from their already vulnerable ecosystems weakens them. Various coral reef fish are locally extinct or threatened with extinction, i.e., the Banggai cardinal fish. (4)

Only about 25 species of coral reef fish, mostly anemones and seahorses, are able to breed in captivity (6). Of the more than 2,000 coral reef fish, and hundreds of coral species in captivity (8), almost all come from the wild (2). Only one percent of corals, especially soft corals can be bred (6). Even with species such as anemone, which can be cultivated, breeding does not cover the demand, (3) nor is it economically viable (4).

The Ozeanium will stock its aquariums mainly with animals from the wild.

There is still no concrete list of species of the fishes, corals and invertebrate animals, which are going to be displayed in the Oceanarium!

[1] Wilkinson C. (2008): Status of Coral Reefs of the World: 2008. Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network, IUCN, Australian Government, Australian Insitute of Marine Science and others.

[2] Rhyne A. L., Tlusty M. F., Schofield P. J., Kaufman L., Morris J. A. Jr, Bruckner A. W. (2012): Revealing the Appetite of the Marine Aquarium Fish Trade: The Volume and Biodiversity of Fish Imported into the United States. PLoS ONE 7(5).

[3] Jones A. M., Gardner S., Sinclair W. (2008): Losing ‘Nemo’: bleaching and collection appear to reduce inshore populations of anemonefishes. Journal of Fish Biology, Volume 73, Issue 3, pages 753–761.

[4] Vagelli A. A. (2011): The Banggai cardinalfish. Natural history, conservation and Culture of Pterapogon kauderni). Wiley-Blackwell.

[5] WWF Global/Philippines, Pressemeldung 23.10.2013. 

[6] Wabnitz C., Taylor M., Green E., Razak T. (2003): From Ocean to Aquarium. The global trade in marine ornamental species. UNEP, WCMC, Cambridge, UK (The information in the study comes from self-declarations by coral fishers)


Four out of five fish caught in the reef die before they reach an aquarium.

Read more
Close ✕

The Ozeanium endangers fish

Four out of five coral fish caught in the reef die before they reach an aquarium.

On average, up to 80 percent of fish die in fishing and transport. (6) Studies have shown that up to 98 percent of fish die in the first year in the aquarium (5) . Since there are no protective regulations, they are replaced without notice.

Welfare in captivity is virtually impossible. Many fish in their natural habitats swim long distances, deep dive, hide in the reef or live in schools. In the confines of the aquarium, many fish injure themselves, develop behavioral disorders, and display aggression.
Technical problems are a leading factor in the death of many animals in large aquariums. In November 2013, for example, 20,000 sturgeon died during a systems failure in the Tropenhaus Frutigen.

An increasingly sensitized public is not likely to accept wild catches and the major risks of transport and maintenance. How will this impact the long term visitor numbers or the Oceanium? What influence will this have on the reputation of the city of Basel?

5 WWF Global / Philippines, Press Release 10.23.2013.
6 Wabnitz C., Taylor M., Green E., Razak T. (2003): From Ocean to Aquarium. The global trade in marine ornamental species. UNEP, WCMC, Cambridge, UK (The information in the study comes from self-declarations by coral fishers).


The Ozeanium project is by no means compatible with the Basler goal of a 2000 watt society.

Read more
Close ✕

The Ozeanium is not sustainable

As a member of the international umbrella organization for zoos and aquariums (WAZA), the Basel Zoo is committed to a nature conservation strategy: «All zoos and aquariums are increasingly sustainable, leave as little traces as possible in nature, and use natural resources without drifting» (World Zoo and Aquariums Nature Conservation Strategy 2005). However, as noted above, most of the fish and corals can not grow, many having been caught in the wild before they are sexually mature and able to reproduce.
Pumps, water treatment, cooling and heating consume enormous amounts of energy. The Ozeaneum in Stralsund (Germany), for example, consumes roughly the energy of a small town with 10,000 inhabitants. The Ozeanium project is by no means compatible with the Basler goal of a 2000 watt society.

As the Basel Zoo defines sustainability and how does its sustainability concept from?   


The Ozeanium Basel pursues the principle «less space for more animals» against all current trends in animal husbandry.

Read more
Close ✕

A Step Backwards

The Basel Zoo prides itself on applying the progressive, animal friendly, and internationally accepted animal husbandry principle: «more space for fewer animals». This makes Thomas Jermann’s (of Project Oceanarium and curator Vivarium Zoo Basel), statement in the Basellandschaftliche Zeitung on 04.12.2012, very troubling: «In the Oceanarium more animals will live, than they have done so far in Zolli».

In an interview with the magazine of September 19, 2014, Olivier Pagan, director of the Basel Zoo, said: «Together with allied zoos worldwide, we aim at producing thriving, genetically healthy breeding populations, so that we are independent of the animals in the wild.» The Ozeanium would contradict this goal.

What species are shown on the planned Oceanarium? Which originate from farms and which from wild catches? Can the Oceanarium be realized if there is no wild game?   


Ongoing changes in wild life import regulations could make the project impossible during construction.

Read more
Close ✕

Legislative changes

Ethics, public morality and legislation are changing rapidly today. One hundred years ago, it was still acceptable to exhibit people from other cultures in zoos. In the 1980s only a few were disturbed by the narrow cages in zoos. Fish were not included in the Swiss Animal Protection Act until 2008. Only after the fatal incidents 2011 and 2012 in the dolphinarium of the Connyland in Lipperswil (TG) an import prohibition for dolphins and whale species was decided.

Increasing restrictive rules on animal husbandry, as well as other trade restrictions and import bans are also likely for other animal groups. Large aquariums, however, are static facilities, hardly able to adapt to changes in the conditions of storage and import. This makes the Ozeanium a highly risky investment.

How does the zoo plan to take account of the risk of stagnation, trade and import regulations?   


The Ozeanium Basel is one of many and shows nothing new.

Read more
Close ✕

The Ozeanium is nothing new

The Zoo Basel is promoting the Ozeanium as an innovation. With no comparable institution within a radius of 500 km. Neither assertion is true. Show aquariums have been built for over 160 years. The Basel Oceanarium would a large aquarium among 150 other aquariums in Europe (see map). There are at least five other large aquariums (Lake Garda, Genoa, Lyon, Munich and Konstanz) within 500 km. The SEA LIFE in Konstanz is barely two hours away from Basel.

2 transparent

What is the innovation of the planned Oceanium in Basel? How will the Oceanarium to assert its relations to the competition?


Because of environmental education: Never before have there been so many large aquariums in the world - at the same time, the seas have never been as threatened as they are today.

Read more
Close ✕

In the Ozeanium, environmental education is still on the road

Aquariums justify their existence with their contribution to environmental education. However, to date there are no studies showing the educational impact and improvement in ocean conservancy. We are better equipped to protect species and the sea with protected areas and trade bans than, with the exhibition of a constricted life in a glass tank. Fish exhibited in glass vessels with charts, is no longer an acceptable pedagogical concept in the 21st century.

Despite the destruction of coral reefs, the aquarium industry continues to grow. Since 2003, about 24 million coral fish, coral 12 million and 10 million invertebrates are traded worldwide (1). Today, there are likely to be significantly more, because there is worldwide (excluding aquariums in zoos be counted) about 1,000 large aquariums(2) and over 2 million private marine aquariums. 6 The turnover of the total industry amounts to FAO to 15 billion US dollars per year (3).

The Ozeanium implies that it is ethically justifiable to catch wild animals in the reef in the case of high losses, and to lock them into a glass box, ignoring their needs. This should further promote the dissemination of private marine aquariums. Never before have there been so many large aquariums in the world. At the same time, the seas were never as threatened as they are today. Obviously, this kind of pedagogy is not effective.

In an increasingly fast-paced world the importance of positive role models can not be stressed. They provide support and orientation, create meaning and motivate towards positive engagement. Can the Ozeanarium, be a credible example of sustainability, and conservation? Can the Ozeanium be a model for ethically acceptable use of natural resources in our world?

1 Wabnitz C., Taylor M., Green E., Razak T. (2003): From Ocean to Aquarium. The global trade in marine ornamental species. UNEP, WCMC, Cambridge, UK (The information in the study comes from self-declarations by coral fishers).
2 ConsultEcon (2008): Keys to economic sustainability of aquarium: Examples from the worldwide aquarium 'industry'. Conference presentation ConsultEcon, Inc.
3 Bartley D. (2005): Fisheries and Aquaculture topics. Ornamental fish. Topics Fact Sheets. In: FAO Fisheries and Aquaculture Department.


The number of visitors to marine parks across Europe is in habitual decline. Is Basel investing in an obsolete model?

Read more
Close ✕

Large aquariums - declining visitor numbers

The planned Ozeanium expects approximately 650,000 visitors per year. However, a comparison with similar large aquariums with a larger catchment area casts serious doubts. SEA LIFE in Munich, in a metropolitan area of 5.7 million inhabitants, registered 660,000 visitors in the opening year (2006). Today, the number is pruned to 350,000 visitors per year. Likewise, the House of the Sea in Vienna, in a metropolitan area of 2.6 million inhabitants, recorded only 567'311 visitors in 2014. According to the Federal Office for Spatial Planning, the Metropolitan Region of Basel comprises around 1.3 million inhabitants. On the basis of the figures of Munich and Vienna it can be estimated that the planned Ozeanium will generate approximately 200,000 to 300,000 entries a year in Basel. That figure would have been higher in the past.

Case study: Ozeaneum of Stralsund, opened in 2008, and was voted "European Museum of the Year" and is one of the most visited aquariums in Germany. Within five years, Ozeaneum Stralsund recorded a visitor decline of more than 250'000 entries, or more than 30 percent.

Zeichenfl che 1

The Blå Planet in Copenhagen, which opened in 2013, had only 768,000 visitors in 2014 after an initial 1.09 million.  

Zeichenfl che 1 kopie

In response to the continuous decline in visitors, Marine parks are always trying to offer new attractions. The SEA LIFE in Constance and the Blå Planet in Copenhagen are discussing expansion buildings. A planned expansion in the Ozeaneum in Stralsund was rejected by the Federal Republic of Germany and the state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern in 2013 after a profitability study.

In Basel, expansion buildings would hardly be possible to increase their attractiveness. The Ozeanium could only show new species in existing aquariums. However, such an approach is likely to be made more difficult by increasingly restrictive provisions on import and maintenance. 

On what assumptions the Oceanarium predicts 650 '000 admissions per year? What is the decline in visitors over the lifetime of the Ozeanium? To what extent can the zoo shoulder this decline by itself? When will third parties have to step in financially? Does the city of Basel have a deficit guarantee?


Miriam Ballmer

Parliamenterian Basel Stadt

«Basel has earned a much more innovative project than just another public aquarium as would be found in many other places.»

Alejandro Vagelli

Director of Science & Conservation New Jersey Academy for Aquatic Sciences, Camden USA

«The coral fish that are found in sea-water aquariums come almost exclusively from the coral reef. There are almost no controls or protection regulations, and many fish die already when they are captured.»

Dr. Gieri Bolliger

Managing Director Tier im Recht (TIR)

«Serious species conservation starts with the protection of habitats. The offspring of endangered animal species, which cannot be released, serves mainly the self-purpose and has very little to do with genuine species conservation.»

Clifford Warwick

Consultant Biologist & Medical Scientist Emergent Disease Foundation

«Among many harms in the aquarium business is microbial resistance from antibiotic loading to fight stress–related infections in fish; with incalculable costs to animal and human health.»

Fanziska Walter

Executive Director - Whale and Dolphin Conservation WDC

«Since 2012 the import of whales and dolphins is banned and Switzerland is compaigning against overfishing of the seas worldwide. This role model function should not be risked for the sake of an unecological and anachronistic project such as the planned "Ozeanium" in Basel - especially not for the benefit of our inhabitants in the seas and the rest of us.»

Valeska Bernhart

Legal research associate, Tier im Recht (TIR)

«Biodiversity in the world's oceans has never been as threatened as it is today. Therefore, it would be wrong to exhibit wild-caught fish. Only a few of the coral fish kept in aquariums can be bred at all.»

Vera Weber

President and CEO Fondation Franz Weber

«Basel as a innovative city shouldn't rely on antiquated things.»

Roger Michel

Freediver & Shark Ambassador

«Wild caught fish and sharks in Ozeanium are there under the pretext of protecting the seas? Absurd. If the shark dies, the sea dies. We die.»

Monica Biondo

Marine Biologist, M.Sc., Fondation Franz Weber

«There are almost no controls or protection regulations for the ornamental fish trade.»

Billo Heinzpeter Studer

Co-president association fair-fish

«100 million francs for the Ozeanium – really?! This money should rather be invested in research for preventive measures to protect the ocean. The ocean is the most important habitat on earth to which we landlubbers are directly related to.»

Dr. Jonathan Balcombe

PhD, author of best-selling book: 'What a Fish Knows':

«As a biologist and lover of fishes, I am saddened by the destruction and suffering caused by the aquarium industry. The conditions of wild capture, transport, and captive life for the beautiful creatures caught up in this trade result in high death rates. It is like the trade in cut flowers, only with sentient animals.»

Prof. Dr. Markus Wild and his dog Titus

Professor of philosophy at the University of Basel

«The Basel Zoo wanted to give less animals more space. Now, it wants more animals in less space. Apart from that, the fishes have to be caught in the wild and many die during this procedure. The Ozeanium would be a step backwards for Basel! And independently from the animal welfare, visitor numbers in existing public aquariums are diminishing. Therefore, a bad investment.»

Kurt Amsler

Underwater photographer and protector of the ocean

«30% of all coral reefs are in an extremely threatening state and it could exacerbate in the next few years. The capture of these coral fishes destroys the sensitive ecological balance and the illegal use of cyanide causes immense damages. Also, the fact that on average, at least 70% of the animals die during the capture or the transport, is in contradiction to the statement to bring people closer to nature.»

Rene Umberger

Executive Director, For the Fishes, Committed to protecting coral reef wildlife

«The illegal use of cyanide in fish capture is widespread and implicated in up to 90% of the fish displayed in marine aquaria. Cyanide kills wildlife, destroys habitat and is a crisis for coral reefs.»

Gregg Yan

Marine Biologist, Best Alternatives Founder and Director, Philippines

«80% of all marine ornamental fishes die before they are even sold, and those that are sold, usually see mortality rates as high as 90 % within the first year of being kept in captivity.»

Sigrid Lüber

Founder and president of OceanCare

«The low education value of aquariums does not justify the capture and keeping of wild animals. Non-comsumptive alternatives like documentaries and virtual reality are much more sustainable and wise.»

Pablo Labhardt

Managing Director Animal Rights Switzerland

«Marine animals fascinate me. This is why I would never want that these animals are captured, transported under high risk of death and displayed in Basel. Anyway I learn much more about animals through modern media than through old-fashioned fishtanks.»

Dr. Sandra Altherr

Diplom-biologist and co-founder of Pro Wildlife

«In Europe, more and more dolphinariums are closing. But these must not be replaced by large aquariums. Sharks and other marine inhabitants belong to the ocean and not in a fish tank.»

Martin Vosseler

Doctor, author, peace and environmental activist

«Public aquariums like the planned Ozeanium in Basel are absolete. For ecological and animal welfare reasons they are totally unacceptable. The project "Vision Nemo" could introduce new ways of adventure, knowledge transfer and marine protection.»

Andrea Herrlich

President and Founder of OceanSwimmer

«Basel is NOT by the sea. And even if this was the case, there wouldn't be any justification for removing wildlife from an already widely depleated sea. Unfortunately, the public is not aware of the devastating aftermath of the aquaristic industry yet, and this is exactly where Basel could act as a pioneer: instead of wasting money on an antiquated and overpriced large aquarium, investing in an environmental friendly, visionary education and awareness-raising system such as Vision Nemo

Robert Marc Lehmann

Marine biologist, scientific diver and photographer

«I used to catch a lot of marine animals for zoos and aquariums in Europe. Therefore, I know what is going on behind the scenes. If the visitors knew as well, nobody would go to any aquarium or zoo.»

Daniela Dill

Spoken-Word-Artist, Basel

«Basel is located by the sea.

Zurich has a rainforest. 

Snow falls in Dubai. 

Iceberg in the desert.

Globalization drives the world crazy.»

Dr. Brigitta Gerber

Former grand councilor and president of the canton Basel-Stadt

«Vision Nemo is a wonderful, contemporary project that enables our children to get to know and experience the marine world. At the same time, it saves and protects marine resources responsibly. In New York, the National Geographic shows with Encounter Ocean Odyssey ( at the Times Square what would be possible. Really great - that's what I wish for Basel!»

Tom Vierus

Photographer, Filmmaker and Marine Biologist

«Public aquariums stimulate the exploitation of coral reefs and set a bad example: by catching reef fishes, additional pressure is exerted on the coral reef ecosystem, which already suffers from overfishing, pollution and the consequences of climate change. We do not need another aquarium, but more individuals who are committed to preserving the oceans.»

Vision nEmo

Virtual Reality - For the animals and their habitat

The ocean is not a disposable resource. It stands for endless expanses. For our blue planet. For life. How, then, can the beauty of the ocean by experienced, if one can not travel to or traverse it? Enter Vision NEMO.
In a few years, Hollywood will produce virtual films, in which the viewer becomes part of the action.

Vision NEMO is based on this virtual reality technology.

Through virtuoso camera work from different regions, zones and sea depths, the spectator delves into a unique 360 degree experience of marine creatures in their natural habitat. This is «edutainment» in its purest form. Learn more about our project Vision NEMO

The ban on the import of dolphins into Switzerland reveals an understanding of the plight of large marine animals detained in small tanks or aquariums. Vision NEMO presents a contemporary, forward-looking alternative.

Engagement by Fondation Franz Weber

The Fondation Franz Weber (FFW) has been committed to the conservation and careful development of our habitat for more than 40 years.

This also includes the fight for the protection of nature and animals as well as the preservation of cultural achievements. The FFW is acknowledged and committed worldwide as a partner organization of UNESCO.