On Friday, 7 January 2016, a great white shark in the Japanese Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium died after only three days of captivity. For this species of the shark, it is almost impossible to live in a tank and maintain its life. In fact, this relatively small exemplar of great white shark was the only one in the whole world to be put into display in an artificial environment.
Shown in exhibition
The shark was caught by accident in the nets of Japanese sailors in the southwestern part of the island country. On Tuesday this week, this 3.5-meter big predator was transferred to the Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium and immediately became one of the most important parts of an exhibition called “The Sea of the Dangerous Sharks.” Just three days after, on Friday, the shark died after its conditions took a sudden turn for the worse, as the aquarium said in a statement published in NY Times.
No white shark ever survived in aquarium
For many years, aquariums all around the world carry on trying to keep the great white shark in captivity. However, no tank can create the conditions needed for maintaining this precious endangered species. The reason is that the shark needs to keep swimming to get oxygen and to protect its body from a decrease of body temperature.
The protectors of nature vs. aquarium
After the death of the predator, the world organization for the protection of the animals raise their voices to not allow others the irreversible mistake that Okinawa aquarium has done. “The cause of death is clear: captivity. The shark never had to die like this,” claimed Jason Baker, vice president of international campaigns of Peta (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals). However, the reason of the death must be still proved by the aquarium, for the mentioned organization it was cleared. Since, this is the most probable and the often result of the captivity of white sharks in tanks.
These dangerous predators usually suffer from the lack of moving activity, and they refuse to eat in artificial environments. This species used to live in the open seas and to close it inside four walls aquariums is often a severe challenge for them.
Life of a shark sacrificed for business?
“In the world of aquaria, where you bring in your clientele, the visitors, based on your attractions, it’s an attraction you would have that nobody else would have,” explains George H. Burgess, an ichthyologist at the Florida Museum of Natural History. In fact, for the Japanese aquarium, this unusual opportunity was a golden mine. “Many visitors had asked us to exhibit the great white shark,” Keiichi Sato, a researcher said in a telephone interview from Okinawa.
On the other hand, the study of the sharks under captivity might bring valuable knowledge in the field of natural sciences as well as it can enhance the willingness of youngsters to be interested in the “world under the sea”. This is a strong argument for organization protecting the nature. However, to decide if to maintain the sharks in the tanks where it is almost the ultimate end of their lives, or to let them live in the wild nature and protect them is going to be tough.