Published Thursday, 19 September 2013
The move comes after a private company, which was planning to take over the running of the Portaferry facility, pulled out of the deal over pension arrangements for staff.
Next Wednesday the council will meet to discuss the closure.
Should the closure be proposed, the council will begin negotiations with the 18 staff members who work at the centre. That process is expected to take two months, following which the aquarium will be put up for sale.
Ards Borough Council said it has been searching for a private investor in a bid to reduce the £600,000 financial cost of the centre picked up by the ratepayer.
However, the company which was to manage the facility, Livingstone Leisure, withdrew from the process, after confirming that, under the rules which apply in Northern Ireland, it was unable to put in place the broadly comparable pension scheme required for existing staff.
This is a shameful proposal to close one of Northern Ireland's main tourist attractions.
Kieran McCarthy MLA
Chairman of the council's Development Committee, councillor Trevor Cummings, said the action was being considered with "deep regret".
He said: "This is not a recommendation we make lightly, knowing that it will impact directly on our staff, the town of Portaferry and the wider tourism base.
"However, the level of expenditure required is not sustainable in this economic climate when we face so many financial pressures, and regrettably, we feel this is the only realistic option".
However, Alliance MLA Alliance Councillor Kieran McCarthy criticised the proposal as 'shameful'.
He said: "The loss of the Exploris centre will deprive Northern Ireland of its only aquarium. It is a valuable educational resource, not just for the Strangford area but the whole region.
"The DUP Tourism Minister has failed to properly invest and promote the aquarium that has resulted in a potential private investor pulling out.
"This will have a lasting, devastating impact on Strangford and the whole of Northern Ireland."
Ards Borough Council has owned and operated the aquarium since 1987 and invested over £10m during that time.
Originally, it began life as the Northern Ireland Aquarium to showcase the diverse marine life that exists around Strangford Lough and the Irish Sea.
In 1994 it was re-branded and officially opened as Exploris by Prince Charles.
The seal sanctuary, which provides for the rescue and rehabilitation of sick, orphaned and injured seal pups, was opened in 1999.
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