Coronavirus: Irukandji Shark & Ray Encounters appeals for financial support

DESPERATE: Lia and Ryan Pereira, owners of Irukandji Shark & Ray Encounters, are appealing to the public for financial support to help feed its 253 animals during the COVID-19 shutdown.
DESPERATE: Lia and Ryan Pereira, owners of Irukandji Shark & Ray Encounters, are appealing to the public for financial support to help feed its 253 animals during the COVID-19 shutdown.

A Port Stephens family business caught up in the COVID-19 pandemic has made a desperate appeal for public financial support in order to save the business from bankruptcy.

Irukandji Shark & Ray Encounters was due to open on April 1 after moving its operations from Bobs Farm to the former Anna Bay oval site at 2 Jessie Road, near the Nelson Bay Road and Port Stephens Drive roundabout.

Unfortunately, the coronavirus has forced the postponement of the opening date, leaving owners Lia and Ryan Pereira financially strapped.

As a means of desperation, the owners have started a GoFundMe page or they stand to lose it all before they even get an opportunity to open their doors at the new location.

"We spent five years planning and all our money building the new facility. Now with all our animals safely moved and the last finishing touches being completed on the site, we have had to place everything on hold because of the effects of the virus. This has left us in survival mode," the couple said.

"We have over 250 animals, many are endangered or vulnerable species, and they are our top priority. We need [financial] help to keep them alive and healthy during this pandemic.

"School tours and overseas visitations, which are our major source of income through the winter season, are now forbidden and if we can't open our doors we will have no income to feed our animals and power our facilities."

APPEAL: Lia and Ryan Pereira with baby Silas in July last year when they purchased the old Anna Bay Ovalto move their expanding Irukandji Shark and Ray Encounters business.

APPEAL: Lia and Ryan Pereira with baby Silas in July last year when they purchased the old Anna Bay Ovalto move their expanding Irukandji Shark and Ray Encounters business.

The Pereiras say that without funds from the Easter school holiday period "there is little to no chance of us surviving the winter".

"Our animals still need food, water, vet care, clean homes and most importantly a huge amount of electricity to survive, and it is so important to us to keep our staff working and looking after the animals even while we are closed."

As a small business, Irukandji does not have huge company or government backing.

"It has taken us many years to get to this stage and now we stand to lose it all," the couple said.

"Even as we ask for this help it feels so unfair as so many businesses need help right now and so many staff have been let go.

"However, we can't survive without public support. We have worked too hard for too many years to lose everything now, we need to be able to continue our important conservation work [Sea Shelter] for the future of our oceans."

The Pereiras' estimate they need $1500 a day to feed and care for their animals, along with the cost of power and staff bills.

This equates to $10,253 a week, or $123,039 for three months, and $246,078 for six months.

However, following the government's announcement of the Job Keeper program on Monday, March 30, the the Pereiras said they were able to reduce the total it needed by more than half to $98,000.

"We are so, so thankful for this and [for] all the support we have been receiving from the community."

As of April 3, $10,230 of its $98,000 target had been raised.

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