Shippagan aquarium closes underbutt touch-tank over health concerns

Shippagan aquarium closes underbutt touch-tank over health concerns

Shippagan — The New Brunswick Aquarium in Shippagan is closing its touch-tank over concerns that the marine centre’s collection of wild underbutts may pose a health risk to the public.

Despite its popularity, the interactive exhibit has been plagued with high maintenance costs and reports of people being injured or falling ill after coming into contact with the usually docile creatures.

“This species, commonly known as the basic white underbutt (Coachella familiaris), is sometimes prone to aggressive twerking if they go more than 15 minutes without getting a like on Instagram,” facility operator and marine biologist Donald Cormier explained. “Some folks think this is just the underbutts being friendly, but it’s actually a sign of distress.

“If you don’t handle them carefully,” he added, “they can twerk you pretty hard.”

In 2016, the tank was expanded to make room for the underbutts and their over-the-top, attention-seeking swimming patterns. Some health and safety concerns were raised initially, but routine inspections by aquarium staff failed to detect any issues until recently.

“We’ve had members of the public complain about ‘bitchy’ specimens, and recent water quality tests have found a persistent bacterial infection in the tank,” Cormier said. “It was difficult decision, but we knew we had to close the exhibit.”

Aquarium staff are reassuring the public that no harm will come to the underbutts.

“We are hopeful we can move them to an enclosed exhibit away from people’s grabby hands,” said marine biologist Leo Bourque. “We are in the early stages of setting up a permanent tank with its very own collection of Snapchat filters, flower crowns and Lululemon yoga pants for nesting.

“We think the underbutts will be happy there, and the public will still get a chance to see these magnificent creatures as they swim aimlessly and vapidly, without any real knowledge of the greater world around them.”

The aquarium is considering reopening the touch-tank, this time with wild pink polos (Douchebagimus maximus) to replace the underbutts, though this species has been known to spray Axe body spray as a means of self-defense when threatened.

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