Feasibility Study for a Wisconsin Public Aquarium
University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, College of Natural Resources
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THE NEED FOR A PUBLIC AQUARIUM IN WISCONSIN: Wisconsin's aquatic resources are diverse, high-quality, popular, and extremely valuable. The state's water resources include 15,000 inland lakes, 41,000 miles of rivers and streams and 6.4 million acres of Great Lakes. Over 2 million anglers enjoy 36 million days of fishing Wisconsin's waters each year. It ls difficult to overestimate the importance of water resources to the state's economy. Water ls vital to heavy industry in transporting raw materials, in the manufacturing process, cooling power plants and carrying away effluent and waste. Our water resources are extremely important to tourism, Wisconsin's second largest industry. Shorelines attract thousands of home, cottage and resort owners. More nonresidents buy fishing licenses in Wisconsin than any other state. The market value of the Great Lakes fishery is placed at $1.4 billion, and the value to the region's economy at more than three times that amount (Bishop, 1987). In 1986, the Door County peninsula attracted over 440,000 tourists, over half from out-of-state, who contributed almost $70 million to the county's economy in July and August alone (Door County Chamber of Commerce and Wisconsin Bell, 1987). In view of the heavy demand placed on state waters by industrial, commercial, and recreational interests, it is imperative that all resource users be aware of the value and importance of water in our lives. A public that understands its dependency on water is more likely to be able to resolve complex water issues and decide matters in ways that ensure clean water for all interests. To inform the public on the importance of water resources is the goal of aquatic education. Students in Midwest states have very low levels of knowledge as to the importance of water (Fortner and Mayer, 1983 and 1988). We need to increase awareness, knowledge, and develop proper attitudes toward water in people, especially young people, through aquatic education. If people are informed, they are prepared to make the right choices that will protect our water resources.