Sharks have an undeserved reputation, particularly great whites – nice one Jaws.
Mindless killers, stalking the depths of any body of salt water they can access, waiting to strike any human silly enough to enter their domain – a conspiracy theory delivered by Hollywood and perpetuated by ignorance.
The answer to such ignorance is of course education, but unlike the plethora of sea life you can learn about without visiting specific coastlines, you should never see a great white shark at an aquarium. If you do, you should probably demand a refund on grounds of cruelty.
You see, having evolved for roughly the past 10 million+ years in the vast expanses of the ocean, great whites are just not adapted to long-term survival in the limited space offered by captivity.
Sadly, as has been the case with many of the world’s most fascinating creatures, humanity couldn’t help itself and has repeatedly attempted to keep the apex predators in confined spaces.
As explained by Vox, through the 70s, 80s, and 90s, numerous aquariums attempted to draw crowds by exhibiting a great white. 16 days is reported as the longest period of time any of these unfortunate animals survived.
As a report from Steinhart Aquarium said:
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.
Of course, not one to back away from an entirely unnecessary challenge, even at the expense of the lives of other living creatures, man would try again but with a modified approach.
The Monterey Bay Aquarium worked out that a big shark needs a big tank (such insight), and so they built one.
Before bringing in a juvenile great white to call it home the aquarium built a pen in the ocean to monitor the 4ft 4″ captured shark. This allowed them to monitor the fish prior to transport to the permanent tank.
To their credit, 14 years ago the aquarium did manage to keep the great white alive for a substantially longer amount of time than any aquarium before them, albeit 16 days is hardly much of a record to beat.
The junior shark survived off a diet of fish at the facility for over six months, but it also killed two other sharks so they chose to release it back to the ocean, its actual home.
The aquarium would bring in another five young sharks over six years, but none stayed longer than the maiden occupant. The shortest stay being 11 days.
But, just because you prove something can be done doesn’t mean it should be. The sharks displayed significant damage and sores from colliding with the walls of the tank.
In early 2016, a Japanese aquarium tried to pick up where Monterey Bay had left off, but they tried with a shark twice the size of the first juvenile that survived for six months on US soil.
It died after three days.
So, in summary, you shouldn’t see a great white in captivity quite simply because you aren’t f*cking meant to. They aren’t built for that life and should be left well alone to avoid needless suffering and a likely death.
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