Why no aquarium has a great white shark

Why no aquarium has a great white shark


There are some shark species that seem to
do okay in aquariums. You’ll see a lot of nurse sharks, zebra sharks, some reef sharks
and sand tiger sharks. But not the great white. For decades, aquariums have tried to contain
the world’s largest predatory fish. Institutions like Marineland, SeaWorld and
the Steinhart Aquarium repeatedly took in white sharks during the 1970s, 80s and 90s, at times
drawing huge crowds. But they never lasted long. Some needed help swimming. None of them would eat. The longest one lasted was just 16 days. A 1984 report by the Steinhart Aquarium put it this way: “In most cases it could be said that all these
captive sharks were merely in the process of dying, with some taking longer than others.”
They had constructed an elaborate transport tank with a harness and IV fluids, but still
couldn’t keep the sharks alive. It wasn’t until 2004 that the Monterey Bay
Aquarium proved that it was possible to keep white sharks for at least six months. It took
a massive effort, and no one’s done it since. JON HOECH: Our approach was one of sort of
a systematic, logical sequence of things leading up to our success and it started with designing
a tank. The Monterey Bay Aquarium had a million gallon,
egg-shaped tank, 35 feet deep, designed for open-ocean animals like tuna and sharks. So
you need a big tank. You also need a small shark. Adult great whites reach 15 feet on average. The Monterey Bay Aquarium nabbed one in 2004
that was 4 feet, 4 inches, less than a year old. That made it easier to move and easier
to keep. JON HOECH: When they’re young they feed
on fish. And as they get older they transition to feeding more on mammals. And so we were targeting
the age bracket where we knew we were more able to feed their natural diet.
And once they collected the shark, they didn’t take it straight to the aquarium. Instead,
the Monterey Bay team set up a 4 million gallon pen right there in the ocean.
That way they could monitor the shark and see if it would feed before they moved it
into a transport tank to travel from southern California where the sharks were born up to the aquarium.
Sharks, like all fish, need to have water continually passing through their gills in
order to get oxygen. Most species can open and close their mouths
to pump the water through. But white sharks and a couple dozen other species don’t do
that. To breathe, they have to move forward through the water with their mouths open.
That’s why white sharks start to weaken as soon as they’re caught in a net. And
that’s why they needed a custom built transport tank with mobile life support.
JON HOECH: Everything from oxygen sensors and video cameras and lighting and filtration
systems that were needed for what turned out to roughly be 9 to 11 hour transport time. Aquarium attendance jumped 30 percent while the shark was on display. After 6 and a half months, they decided to release it because it had killed 2 other
sharks. Over the next 6 years, the aquarium displayed
5 more baby white sharks – some they paid fishermen to hand over, some they caught themselves.
Their stays ranged from just 11 days up to 5 months. The Monterey Bay Aquarium had succeeded
in doing what no one else could. But it did take a toll on the sharks. They
developed visible sores from bumping into the sides of the tank.
SEAN VAN SOMMERAN: We actually snuck in with photographers and took pictures of the sharks
as they were beginning to attrit and fail due to the constant scraping against the walls
basically. As we viewed it, it was a vase of flowers that would be kept for the visitors.
Historically, aquariums kept sharks that lived near the seabed or near reefs. That makes
sense – it’s easier to recreate those habitats in a tank. But in recent decades,
aquariums have wanted to bring in bigger, more pelagic sharks, those that spend time
roaming the open ocean. They’ve even been able to exhibit the largest
shark in the world, the whale shark, if they have a big enough tank.
But pelagic sharks are used to being able to swim long distances without obstructions,
changing directions only as they please. So the faster-moving sharks like the
white shark, mako shark, and blue shark, they have trouble with walls when they’re
put in a tank. That’s what was happening with the Monterey
Bay Aquarium’s sixth white shark in 2011. They decided to release it after 55 days and
its tracking tag revealed that the shark died shortly after being released. They’re not
 sure why. But since then, they haven’t tried bring in
another great white shark. JON HOECH: It’s just a very very very resource
intensive program and we felt like we had accomplished our goal of introducing the general
public to a live white shark. It took a huge, carefully planned system to
keep a white shark alive. And even then, the sharks didn’t quite fit there.
We can’t seem to stop trying though. Earlier this year, an 11.5-foot great white shark
was taken to an aquarium in Okinawa, Japan after getting caught in a fisherman’s net.
It was the only adult white shark ever to be put on display, and within 3 days it was dead. I wanted show you a great resource online
called the Biodiversity Heritage Library – it’s the product of a couple dozen
museums and libraries all agreeing to scan millions of pages from books related to biodiversity.
They’ve got a bunch of great albums on Flickr, including one that’s all about sharks.
Some of these go back to the 16th and 17th centuries, back when the naturalists used to call sharks “sea dogs” which is funny because as we now know sharks were roaming the oceans for about 300 million years before the first mammals showed up.

100 Replies to “Why no aquarium has a great white shark”

  1. "..and its tracking tag revealed that the shark died shortly after being released. They're not sure why."

    oH REALLY NOW. not sure? yall REALLY dont know?

  2. I think if any aquarium wants to have a Great White Shark in exhibit, they need to custom-build the entire setup exclusively for the shark. It might have to take up the whole space of the aquarium, but clearly they need a lot of space to roam.

    And if they can't afford to make that much space, they can't afford the shark. Plain and simple.

  3. Why don't they expand the aquarium to make in circular and run for a big circle. Add some canals and one part of the circle to have a big area to allow the sharks to swim freely. They could have a view stations underwater around the center or beautiful places within the center of the circle and allow a 360 experience. If they could expand more , allow some canals that run through the whole aquarium place that will lead back to the circle ? It's probably expensive and too hard to do so

  4. Thanks, you saved my fish tank, I was going to put a great white in my tank before watching this video.

  5. This confused me so much because I live close go Monterey and I've never been to another aquarium I had no clue nobody else had a great white!

  6. Build an indestructible glass tunnel under the water that people can access from the surface so they can see ocean life while the animals live freely in their ecosystem. They don’t get hurt, we don’t get hurt. Simple

  7. The white shark probably shouldn't be kept in captivity again, but some people in the comments just think that aquariums and zoos are cruel. They're actually great as long as the animals have enough space. They're saving endangered species, treating sick or injured animals and releasing them, donating money to protect the wildlife, and letting people interact and learn about tons of exotic plants and animals from all over the world

  8. Humans love putting intelligent mammals into cages, millions and millions actually… Talking about prisons.

  9. So they took a shark from its home didnt like the outcome then released it back without acclimation so it died hm🤦‍♀️

  10. In Dubai,we have a huge aquarium and they feed the sharks before putting them in the big tank . The aquarium is the largest in the world and it has a lot of space and things

  11. not that I think keeping animals like great whites or whales and stuff like that in aquariums is ok but if it comes down to it and if your gonna contain them DO IT RIGHT. and do it beneficial for the animal because you are literally controlling its life and its system

  12. 6 months is a Success? WOW! maybe we should leave all animals be? Wonder how we would feel captured and put on display? Honestly

  13. You guys remember in myth busters with the magnets, what if they put magnets around the tank so the shark doesn’t bump into the walls

  14. I didnt need a bazillion dollars to figure out they wont survive in a tiny tank…any tank that isn't the ocean is tiny to a shark

  15. Why put anything in any tank? People wanna see underwater life? Let them see what professionals record as videos. Not convincing enough? Become a professional and go see for yourself. Stop ruining lives which you deem less valuable then yours. Human ego is disgusting.

  16. Maybe , when the sharks aren't able to navigate freely as they please ( coz it's a small tank ) , they lose their will to live ? Their deaths could be psychological , rather than being biological . As Vox kept on saying that Sharks kept on dying but doctors couldn't determine why .

  17. hmm.. sounds like we shouldn't hold animals captive, research or for show it doesn't matter if its harming the species

  18. I hate zoos and aquariums with big fish! They need there environment! But cheetahs are almost extinct! People are moving houses to there environment!

  19. How come they aquarium are not facing any charges, and how come they get permission to do it. Yes they achieve their goals of displaying shark but at the expense of shark life.

  20. The Monterey bay aquarium got another great white a couple years ago. They had it for a while, and released it later, but it ended up dying shortly after it was released.

  21. The shark died a short while after they released it. And they DON'T know why???? It doesn't take a genius to figure it out, does it?

  22. High intelligence and compassionate creatures should be kept in the ocean. Whales, Sharks, Dolphins, etc…. leave them in their HOME.

  23. I mean , why are we trying to keep these animals captive anyways? Why do we keep any animals captive? There's reasons they don't last long so leave it that way.

  24. Orh they could just leave the alone, I don’t come to your house and take ur nan and put her In a cage. No didn’t think so

  25. Nobody NEEDS aquariums or zoos

    Why not just have animal breading stations that are well kept for when humans notice a species population starting to shrink?

  26. The obsession humans have with taking animals from its natural habitat. “We achieved our goal of exposing the public to sharks”. The shark died Bob. What an achievement.

  27. Man it’s almost like putting them in captivity is harming them, most of the time fatally. Hmmmm, oh I know, let’s try again

  28. It saddens me to see that we as an intelligent species cannot see the forest for the trees. Just leave them alone. If you want to see a white shark, go to the ocean
    and see them where they live. Experience their world in their setting.

  29. These sharks are minding their own business but humans still feel the need to send them to an early grave by putting them on display, smh.

  30. Hello everyone, on the topic of taking animals out of their habitat and putting them on display for our amusement or worse, keeping them for medical supplies please take my advice: do not visit a zoo in developing nations unless you want to be scarred for life. Vietnam, China (although not developing their record for animal cruelty is not great) don't do it!

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