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Struggling Japan aquarium collects $90,000 through crowdfunding for jellyfish food

Shuhei Ikeda checks the health of jellyfish from above a huge tank at Tsuruoka City Kamo Aquarium in Yamagata Prefecture on Feb. 18, 2021. (Mainichi/Rika Chonan)

TSURUOKA, Yamagata -- An aquarium hard-hit by the coronavirus pandemic in this northern Japan city has collected 9,591,489 yen (about $90,000) for jellyfish food through a crowdfunding campaign.

    Tsuruoka City Kamo Aquarium, which is known to have the largest collection of jellyfish in the world, conducted a monthlong crowdfunding campaign through Feb. 20 with a goal to collect 5 million yen (about $47,000), the annual cost to feed its jellyfish. After the aquarium collected an amount far exceeding its target, its director Kazuya Okuizumi, 56, said: "We've realized once again that our aquarium is beloved. We'd like to do more to display the best exhibits in the world."

    More than 60 species of jellyfish are on display at the aquarium. Popular features include the "Jellyfish Dream Theater," in which some 10,000 moon jellyfish swim in a huge tank with a diameter of about 5 meters.

    However, the number of customers has plunged due to the novel coronavirus pandemic and the Japanese government's state of emergency declaration. Visitors, which used to total about 500,000 annually, plummeted to 210,000 as of the end of January this fiscal year, which ends in March.

    As revenue dropped, the facility began to struggle to buy Vietnamese brine shrimp, a kind of plankton, to feed the jellyfish. The aquarium launched an online crowdfunding campaign on Jan. 20, and a total of 911 people made donations.

    A teary Okuizumi said, "We're so grateful to everyone, including a person who directly handed us 100,000 yen (about $940) in cash." All the funds will be used to buy jellyfish food. In return to those who donated more than 3,000 yen, the aquarium intends to send gifts such as original jellyfish goods and annual passes.

    Shuhei Ikeda, 33, who is in charge of caring for the jellyfish, said, "After trying various food, we've concluded that brine shrimp hatched from eggs caught in Vietnam are the best to keep the jellyfish healthy and the water clean." He flashed a smile while knowing that the aquarium has secured enough funds to feed 10,000 hungry moon jellyfish.

    (Japanese original by Rika Chonan, Tsuruoka Local Bureau)

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