Living Coast Discovery Center. Courtesy photo

The Living Coast Discovery Center, a nonprofit zoo/aquarium that has served the San Diego community for more than 30 years, announced Wednesday needs to fill a critical funding gap of $500,000 by the end of the month.

The funding gap is a result of the COVID-19 crisis, which forced the Center to temporarily close its doors to the public.

On March 15, the Living Coast was forced to temporarily close its doors in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Prior to this, the center had operated with net-positive income for the past six years and had successfully set aside $300,000 in cash reserves. Now, after more than four months of closure to the general public, as well as the cancelation of school groups, day camps and other important revenue-generating programs, the Living Coast is facing a significant financial shortfall that threatens its future.

“Unfortunately, COVID-19 cases continue to rise in San Diego County, and it does not appear that we will be able to return to normal operations anytime soon,” Ben Vallejos, executive director, said. “We do not envision being able to re-open our doors to the public until we can also resume our other fee-based programs that are essential to the Living Coast’s overall financial health.”

Approximately 50 percent of the Living Coast’s annual budget is generated through admissions and memberships, combined with income from programs such as field trips, school outreaches, guest experiences, community clean-ups and hikes, facility rentals and the gift shop. Fundraising activities account for the other 50 percent of the center’s operating budget.

Prior to the mandated closure in March, the Living Coast was on pace to have one of its best financial years ever, officials said.

“We are making significant progress toward our goal,” Lori Coons, director of community engagement and development, said. “Two incredible community champions have stepped forward – The Nelson Foundation and the JEM Project – with combined contributions of $250,000 that brought us halfway to our goal.”

The mission of the Living Coast is to inspire the community to connect with and care for the coastal environment. Contributions to the Love for Living Coast campaign can be made on its website at