After a considerable social media backlash, Japanese theme park Space World was forced to close its ice rink Sunday after freezing 5,000 fish, crabs, and other sea creatures into the ice. The ice rink, called "Freezing Port," was intended to create the feeling of a real ocean, according to Space World management. The fish were laid out under the ice to create an arrow sign and the world "hello." The special winter attraction also included enlarged photos of rays and white sharks, which were originally mistaken for more dead sea creatures, The Guardian reported. Space World manager Toshimi Takeda appeared on CNN Monday to apologize.
"We were shocked to hear the reaction as the ice skate rink was very popular since it opened two weeks ago, we had an unprecedented number of visitors," Takeda told CNN. "[But] we had endless opinions about the project, we were shocked... We are sorry for the project and decided to close the rink on that night."
Takeda added that Space World would melt the ice rink to remove the sea creatures, which were reportedly purchased from a local fish market and were therefore already dead when they were frozen. A spokesperson for the park said that this had been a cause for misunderstanding when the story about the ice rink first broke: “Misunderstandings spread on the internet that the fish were frozen while they were still alive, but that was not the case,” the spokesperson told the Asahi Shimbun newspaper. “We should have explained more.”
Moreover, Takeda told NBC that the park would hold a memorial service for the fish, and subsequently reuse them as fertilizer. Space World had originally advertised the ice rink on social media as the first of its kind in the world, but CNN has reported that all of the theme park's Facebook posts about Freezing Port have since been deleted due to the backlash.
Reviews left on Space World's Facebook page described the theme park as being "disrespectful to nature" and displaying an "appalling lack of morality" at best. A couple of reviewers also said that while the idea was good, the execution was not. However, the ice rink fiasco also generated a number of inappropriate and racist comments on social media channels, to which Space World has not yet responded. The park did release a statement to The Japan Times, however, to apologize to any park-goers who may have been "uncomfortable" because of the frozen sea creatures. One such park-goer told NBC that "It's as if they [fish] were alive. I don't feel comfortable allowing my kids to skate on them."
Most recently, the park reaffirmed Takeda's remarks about closing the rink, saying that it had already done so.