Portland Aquarium owner ordered to remove fish from Austin facility

AUSTIN, TX (KXAN) — The owner of an aquarium which was planning to open later this year was told by Austin city officials to remove fish from the facility until it is up to code.

The owner, Vince Covino, complied with the order issued by the city’s Code Compliance Department, the city said Tuesday.

A family with aquariums in Portland, Ore., and Boise, Idaho, is refurbishing a vacant furniture showroom at U.S. 183 and Anderson Mill Road. However, the code compliance office said the operators still must meet several city requirements before the project can move forward.

It does not have the paperwork needed to house livestock on the premises and it does not have a building permit to perform all the work necessary to convert the store into its planned use, the city said.

As efforts continue to meet the goal of opening by December, Covino and his brother Ammon are fighting allegations that marine life at their other locations have been mistreated and died needlessly.

On Monday, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals also called for an investigation of potential cruelty violations at the Austin location after lodging a similar complaint against the Portland Aquarium last week.

The Oregon Humane Society is investigating the aquarium after a former employee released a “death log” documenting more than 200 animal deaths in a three-month period earlier this year. Complex investigations can, at times, take as long as six months, the Humane Society said.

Meanwhile, an arm of the University of Texas at Austin that had planned to work with the Austin aquarium on educational projects has dissolved the budding partnership because of the controversies.

“In light of the recent news, we are no longer in preliminary discussions with the Austin Aquarium to help design an outreach exhibit,” said Faith Singer-Villalobos, communications coordinator for the Texas Advanced Computing Center.

Last week, Vince Covino told KXAN that an aquarium will open this winter, and that the allegations at the other aquariums are unfounded.

“We are on track. Everything is going just as planned,” he said.

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