Dr Julia Sigwart, the director of Queens University Belfast marine laboratory in Portaferry, said: "Exploris is possibly the most important asset Ards Borough Council has. It is a world class aquarium that showcases the spectacular and internationally important marine diversity of Strangford Lough.
"We work together on scientific projects and Exploris staff regularly advise our scientists and students on the tricky business of keeping marine animals happy and healthy.
"Our colleagues and visiting scientists from around the world all visit the aquarium and everyone marvels at what a treasure it is for us.
"We regularly take our students to Exploris for teaching, and I cannot count the number of students who were born and raised in Northern Ireland but never realised the amazing marine life we have here, until they came face to face with it in Exploris."