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An aquarium in Yamagata Prefecture has started a crowdfunding campaign to raise funds to feed its world-leading collection of jellyfish, as it struggles to stay afloat amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Kamo Aquarium in the city of Tsuruoka usually draws around 500,000 visitors a year. But, due to the pandemic, visitor numbers in the current fiscal year, which ends March 31, stand at just 210,000 as of the end of January.

The sharp decline has left the aquarium tight on funds to purchase brine shrimp, a type of plankton that serves as the food source for its collection of some 60 species of jellyfish.

With a turnaround success story and a Guinness World Record under its belt, the aquarium has also drawn attention for its association with Osamu Shimomura, a Nobel laureate in chemistry, who advised the aquarium on how to get the sea creatures to glow.

On Jan. 21, the aquarium launched a monthlong campaign on major Japanese crowdfunding platform Campfire Inc. to raise ¥5 million ($47,600), the cost of feeding the jellyfish for a year. It had raised over ¥3 million as of Wednesday.

“We ask for support in protecting our healthy and beautiful jellyfish,” a staff member of the aquarium said.

Backers can make donations starting from ¥3,000, with aquarium entry tickets and original merchandise offered in return for contributions.

The aquarium, which opened in 1964, began to face decreasing visitor numbers after new aquariums were built in neighboring prefectures. In 1997, the number of visitors fell to about 90,000, leading to rumors of closure.

In what became a turning point for the aquarium, its then-director Tatsuo Murakami had the idea that year of focusing on jellyfish after seeing the positive response from visitors to a jellyfish exhibition.

The aquarium applied for registration in the Guinness book of world records in 2007 after the number of species it had collected exceeded 30. Guinness World Records recognized it in 2012 for having the world’s largest variety of jellyfish in captivity.

The late Shimomura, who in 2008 won the Nobel Prize in chemistry jointly for research on the mysterious green glow of jellyfish, helped the aquarium by offering guidance on how to get the jellyfish Aequorea victoria to glow. He also served as a one-day director at the facility.

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