The Zoo Basel planned to build a large aquarium in the city centre of Basel (Switzerland). Costs for building the “Ozeanium” ran up to over 100 million Swiss Francs ‒ and this at a time when the world’s oceans are under greater threat than ever. Almost one third of the world’s coral reefs have perished, and another 20 per cent will be gone in 10 to 20 years.
Large aquariums only exacerbate this kind of destruction, because they rely on importing many of the species they house by capturing them from the wild, as they cannot be farmed. Various coral fish species have already died out in their local environments, or are threatened with extinction.
It is unacceptable for marine life to be exhibited like this in Basel: trapped and exhibiting maladjusted behaviours. All the more so, considering that the facility would have devoured huge amounts of energy in the form of pumps, water treatment, cooling and heating systems.
The antiquated project of the Zoo Basel not only contradicted the progressive spirit of Basel, it was also in no way compatible with the goal of a 2000-watt society, which the city is pursuing. And this is precisely why Fondation Franz Weber launched the campaign “NOzeanium – say NO to the Ozeanium!”.
Blazing a trail in the fight against the ludicrous 100-million-francs project, Foundation Franz Weber put every effort into convincing the Grand Council of Basel to oppose the construction of the “Ozeanium”. However, despite intensive work by the foundation to educate and raise awareness, on 17 October 2018 the Grand Council of Basel-City declared their support for the construction of the “Ozeanium”. Fondation Franz Weber immediately initiated a referendum against this decision. Together with environmental organisations, marine conservationists, experts, and many other motivated supporters, we were able to collect nearly 5,000 signatures within the canton’s referendum deadline and submitted these to the Basel-City State Chancellery on 28 November 2018.
On 15 December 2018, the State Chancellery published the result of the signature verification: 4,649 people had signed for a referendum against the “Ozeanium”.
Hence, it was clear: the “Ozeanium”-project was going to be put to the vote in the canton of Basel-City (see press release from 21 December 2018). On 19 May 2019, the eligible voters of Basel said NO to the “Ozeanium” by 54.56% to 45.44%.
This decision is a victory of sound judgement, moral progress and ethics. The people of Basel have delivered a strong message to the global community: “We must stand up for the oceans with real action and protect them where they are.” (see press release from 19 May 2019)