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The Reason Why Aquariums Don't Keep Great White Sharks

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The Reason Why Aquariums Don't Keep Great White Sharks

While great white sharks do a stellar job of ruling the food chain out in the deep blue sea, they don’t fare as well in tanks.

Despite numerous attempts, no aquarium in the world has ever managed to keep a great white in captivity for very long, and while California’s Monterey Bay Aquarium did manage to house a juvenile shark for six months, most of the time the animals end up dead if they're kept in captivity.

Watch Monterey Bay Aquarium's white shark having a swim back in 2009 below:

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The main reason great whites struggle in captivity is because they’re nomadic. They’re used to travelling long distances, which not only allows them to breathe with ease, but is the reason why great whites tend to get nasty injuries from bumping into their enclosures' glass walls. 

Once great whites start to slow down or stop moving completely, they start struggling to breathe and inevitably weaken. 

What’s more, because they’re used to swimming freely and at great lengths in the wild, when in confined tanks great whites start swimming into the walls of their enclosure and develop injuries. 

Despite numerous attempts, no aquarium in the world has ever managed to keep a great white in captivity for very long. Credit: imageBROKER/Alamy Stock Photo
Despite numerous attempts, no aquarium in the world has ever managed to keep a great white in captivity for very long. Credit: imageBROKER/Alamy Stock Photo
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Oh, and then there’s that pesky prey instinct of theirs.

In 2011, after having a juvenile great white in captivity for six months, Monterey Bay Aquarium had no choice but to release the fella back into the wild because it killed two of its tankmates.

That same year, Monterey Bay ended its great white program and the aquarium hasn’t had one in captivity since. 

Not only was it an eye-wateringly expensive effort, but the aquarium had come under fire after people noticed injuries that great whites developed in the tanks. 

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At the time, Jon Hoech, Monterey Bay’s director of husbandry operations, insisted that the aquarium had ‘inspired ocean conservation’ by keeping great whites in captivity.

Monterey Bay Aquarium did manage to house a juvenile great white for six months. Credit: Anthony Pierce/Alamy Stock Photo
Monterey Bay Aquarium did manage to house a juvenile great white for six months. Credit: Anthony Pierce/Alamy Stock Photo

He said in part: “We believe strongly that putting people face to face with live animals like this is very significant in inspiring ocean conservation and connecting people to the ocean environment.

“We feel like white sharks face significant threats out in the wild and our ability to bring awareness to that is significant in terms of encouraging people to become ocean stewards." 

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A white shark was most recently kept in captivity in a Japanese aquarium back in 2016, but died after just three days. 

The animal didn't feed once after being put in the tank and although it appeared to be doing well at first, the shark weakened and sank to the bottom of its tank. 

Featured Image Credit: Alamy/Scubazoo Alamy/AlexeyStiop

Topics: Animals

Aisha Nozari
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