San Francisco's Aquarium of the Bay to get new leadership after scandal

The Aquarium of the Bay, a fixture on San Francisco's Pier 39 for almost three decades, finds itself in a financial mess due to a scandal embroiling its now-departed CEO who served for almost a decade.  

Last month, then-CEO George Jacob told KTVU about a massive transformation of the facility where everything but the aquatic tunnels would be removed and replaced by a much bigger building at warp speed.

"We're excited about its amazing future where we would transform the aquarium into a climate and ocean conservation living museum. The exhibit area would quadruple. We plan to execute, from the date of permits, in 24 months. That level of transition has never happened before and this is going to be something to behold," said Jacob.

But at the insistence of the Board Chairman Jon Fisher, Jacob resigned over issues of unpaid bills, financial improprieties, excessive spending on travel, dining, personal spending, and holding overseas events to the tune of almost $750,000, as well as a transition the aquarium could not afford. 

"There will be no proliferating, there will be no events of any kind until the organization is in much better shape," said Fisher.

Not only are these the longest aquarium tunnels in the United States, they are unique because they are concentrated on Bay life, and you can rarely see Bay life in the murky waters of San Francisco Bay.

 The top priority for Fisher: the health and safety of aquatic life. 

"The sharks and the fish…they deserve our very best and this was not it. This is a charitable organization for the public good and, unfortunately, I don't think the previous plans served the public good, served the animals," said Fisher.

Another priority: empowering employees through a whistleblower policy. The aquarium survived the recession and COVID-19. Will it survive this? 

"I absolutely think it has a life going forward and I absolutely think our best days are ahead of us," said Fisher. 

In the short term, a busy summer season will bolster its finances, but new leadership and major operational changes are coming.