Why Great White Sharks are no longer in Aquariums
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. However they don't last long. Some needed help on 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 expected 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 6 months. It took a massive effort and no one has done it since. 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. When they are young they feed on fish. As they get older they transition to feeding more on mammals. And so marine life experts were targeting the age bracket where they were 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 in the ocean. That way they could monitor the shark and see if it would feed before they moved 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. However 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 whites harks start to weaken as soon as they are caught in a net. And that's why they need a custom built transport tank.
With mobile life support. Everything from oxygen sensors, video cameras, lighting, filtration systems that were needed for what turned out to be a long journey of transportation. it's about 9-11 hour transport. Aquarium attendance jumped 30 percent while the shark was on display. After 6 and a half months they decided to release it because it 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 11 days up to 5 months. The Monterey bay Aquarium had succeeded in doing what no one could.
However it did take a toll on the sharks. They developed visible sores from bumping into the sides of the tank. 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, aquarium 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. However 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 the blue shark. They have trouble with walls when they are 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. Since then They haven't tried to bring in another great 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. Early 2006, an 11.5 food 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 with in 3 days it was dead